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Publishing News: Control over data is where the real war is being fought

The ebook price war is a "red herring," copyright needs the public's attention, and Wal-Mart (finally) breaks up with Amazon.

Here are a few stories that caught my attention this week in the publishing space.

Publishers, price is a distraction — focus on data control

Suw Charman-Anderson at Forbes took a look this week at Alison Flood’s report at The Guardian on the ebook price wars in the U.K., which are “prompting concerns from writers that the ‘relentless downward pressure on book prices’ could lead to industry ruin.” According to Flood’s report, authors and others in the industry are concerned that readers will get conditioned to these bargain basement prices, thus devaluing ebooks, and expect pricing at levels independent bookstores can’t afford to sustain.

Charman-Anderson argues that readers are smarter than that: “[t]he whole concept of sales, coupons, discounts and price wars is that the consumer gets something that’s worth more than the price paid, and they do so knowing full well that they’ve got a bargain. That’s what a bargain is.” She also argues that all these concerns over ebook price wars are a “red herring” diverting attention from the real problem. Referring to a post by Nick Harkaway at Futurebook, Charman-Anderson writes:

“Harkaway basically says that publishers need to become retailers in order to regain control over customer data, and he’s absolutely right. …. The value of customer data cannot be underestimated. Retail these days isn’t just about buying and selling; it’s about what additional value you can offer your customers based on the information you have about them.”

“The ebook price war is not the problem,” says Charman-Anderson. “The problem is that publishers have ceded the most valuable ground to the retailers.” Charman-Anderson’s piece is this week’s recommended read — you can find it here.

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Independent Booksellers and Chains Face Big-Box Competitors

Looks like the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" maxim is coming in to play with the increased attention big-box retailers are giving to books. Small indie booksellers and chain stores, such as Borders and B&N, are feeling the pinch from big-box store markdowns. From the Washington Post: Costco, Target, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club aren't just moving in…

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