Here Be Dragons…

John Battelle’s note re. Kevin Kelly’s article in the NYT Sunday magazine makes me think – as a publisher in the STM market and sitting on a digitized archive of almost 1M documents dating back to 1917… I don’t see why publishers are shy or scared about this topic. I just don’t get the fear of and prejudice aimed at the digital future. At all! Until paper is officially dead (pending approval from above my pay grade) the digital and traditional spheres of content will coexist in constant tension. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s totally healthy and makes for a better transition in the end.

We sell access to our digital archives via corporate and individual subscription (as well as pay per view). Very soon we’ll have the pieces in place to connect with the various public points of entry (Google Scholar, et al) and show just enough info to initiate a decision from the person browsing (Is this article relevant? Should I buy it?) This part we want to be careful of… Done the wrong way it would be like taking a drink from a fire hose.

But on the surface, what’s so hard about this? Scan it, tag it, host it, market it, sell it. Rinse and repeat. When the newspapers are losing 2 and 3% readership year after year I think the consumption trends are clear. The legacy of past works holds immense value. Probably more so than the future of those same publishers (hmmm, did someone say ‘Long Tail’?).

Do you think the Rolling Stones will make more money from their past works or their future works? Point made.

Do you think the Beatles will make more from their digital sales than their analog vinyl, 8-track, tape, cd…? My money’s on digital. Safe bet looking 20 years out.

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