How smart is David Pogue? He’s an accomplished musician. A successful business person. An author with dozens of well-written books under his belt. The lead technology columnist for the New York Times, and a talking head on television. And I know him a little; he’s a great guy.
But wow, is he asleep on electronic publishing.
Yesterday, David blogged on the subject. He asked what sounds like an innocent question, and the response has been strong and pretty much of one voice: “David Pogue, you need to pull your head out of that orifice“.
Specifically, David was asking about copy protection. He framed the question as though it was meaningful, and to his credit has done some anecdotal (and flawed, by his own admission) research on the subject. And certainly it’s meaningful for content producers like David who make a living producing said content to ask these questions. But David Pogue has been in the business for a very long time, and knows all the angles way better than almost anyone.
So why the question? Greed aside, it’s because business change is hard, and maybe even harder when you know as much about your business as David Pogue knows about his.
Should electronic books be copy-protected? No, of course not. Do people with something to protect have a reason to ask the question from a different perspective that the rest of us? You bet.
But books are different than movies and music. The analog equivalent is very hard to copy (except in excerpt), so it’s never been a concern, just as it wasn’t a concern when we used record albums for music.
VHS video tapes were analog and studios figured out a copy-protection scheme for them, and of course cassette audio tapes are easily copied.
But as time as passed we’ve seen time and again how copy protection simply does not achieve its desired effect AND is ultimately defeated. It’s ridiculous to continue to play this game, and the mighty David Pogue needs to be standing down his publishers (et.al.) on the issue.
I can’t wait for the New York Times to start charging for on-line subscriptions, and then to follow the Wall Street Journal’s lead and tell its electronic subscribers that they need to pay extra for SmartPhone App subscriptions to the same content.
Or better: I’d love to see them get it right and enact some real business change.