Peter Jackson, not the movie director, but the chief scientist and vice president at Thomson Reuters calls out the physical medium known as the book [via Westblog]. He touts Amazon.com, the Kindle, the drop in reading percentages and book sales, and of course professional online databases. While I understand his point of view and the direction Thomson Reuters wishes the market to move, I see this as an enlargement of the digital divide. From my experience, Thomson Reuters wants their customers to drop their print publications and encourage online access. This is done by raising the costs of print subscriptions, offering unbeatable and temporary discounts for online products, and phasing out print editions. Obviously, a better business choice as it cuts down overhead costs and locks customers into contracts where they are paying for the same content year after year, never owning it, and only leasing it.
If you want the best online experience it costs. Public libraries pay large sums for databases that are comparably handicapped in comparison to their private market counterparts. For example, a Westlaw database at the public library may disallow saving files to a hard drive, thumb-drive, CD-ROM, etc., forcing you to read it there or pay for prints. This is on top of an online product that doesn’t have all the search capabilities, resources, or friendly graphical user interface that is offered to the private market. Westlaw ensures that these limitations are contractually in place. They offer a lower price to the public library, and the product is being made available to the public for free, so it is necessary to weaken the product. It’s an interesting concept, imagine if the book or encyclopedia set that one purchases at the bookstore proves different than the public library copy; for example, their copy has no index or color pictures. It would be an outrage. The purpose of the public library is to level the playing field and provide equal access and information to all. How can they honestly do this when vendors cripple their products because they aren’t getting as much money and it’s use is a public service?
Peter Jackson finds the sheer convenience of digital books, Amazon, and the Kindle as proof that, “In the future, the book is no longer a product; it’s a service.”. That’s a big generalization based upon one company and it certainly can’t apply to ALL book businesses. That statement has to overcome the fact that many are not comfortable or able with technology and the platform isn’t massively affordable. What does jump out of this blog post like a monkey with it’s tail on fire is the Thomson Reuters game plan.