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Publishers learning from music's mistakes

PUBLISHERS are learning from music labels' struggle to make online music profitable and combat piracy, but so-called e-books will only add value to the industry and not replace printed books, experts say.

Amid a global economic downturn, the publishing industry is also trying to deal with a growing demand for online content driven by advances in technology with electronic readers such as's Kindle and Sony Corp's Reader.

But it is learning from music labels, who have seen a shift to digital sales. These labels have filed countless lawsuits to combat online music-sharing sites, while trying to make digital distribution profitable.

"Our aim is not to beat up the music industry but that said, they sure did screw it up," Andrew Albanese, of Publisher's Weekly, told a panel discussion on the topic at the recent Book Expo America in New York City.

Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, said the Internet broke the traditional distribution model for music and was now doing the same for publishing.

But while he said the popularity of the MP3 music format is a rejection by fans of compact discs, "the difference is with books there's nothing wrong with books, the book is not a value-subtract medium but a value-add medium. Over time e-books will tend to enhance and contribute to the success of the book rather than replace it," he said.

While the music industry fought free music-sharing sites such as Napster and Kazaa in court, Jared Friedman, co-founder of social publishing website Scribd, said he was optimistic about the transition of the publishing industry.

"We seem to be going straight from an Adams model to an iTunes model and skipping the many years of Napsters and Kazaas that went in between for the music industry," he said.

Apple's online music store iTunes dominates the sale of digital music, but Friedman said it was important publishers encourage a more competitive marketplace.

"It's clear that there's going to be enough demand for books distributed as digital content, that there is going to have to be a digital distribution mechanism for books."


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