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Clue to publishers: you're selling experiences, not content

By Zimran in Op-Ed
Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 01:56:57 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Publishers would back off draconian access-control measures like the DMCA if they understood that they were selling experience, not content. You would think that the VCR, DivX, TV, radio etc. would have taught them that the same content on different media creates different experiences, and that's what customers are buying when they read a book online and then buy it anyway, or listen to a song on the radio and pick up the album.

If publishers dropped their totemic fixation on material as "content" and realized they were in the experience business, perhaps they'd start using the Internet to make money, instead of just producing crippleware through the courts and through code. It would mean better service for their customers, and more business for them.

One fact has been forgotten in all the hubbub surrounding Dmitry Sklyarov's incarceration for distributing eBooks technology: no one reads eBooks. Moreover, if the print publishing industry continues to cripple digital book formats, no one ever will. DivX, DeCSS, Napster, and Dmitry all illustrate how utterly unprepared traditional media publishers are for the business model consequences of distributing their content in digital form.

Instead of placing ever more draconian authorization measures on unpopular devices, publishers should realize that, in the digital world, they're selling experiences not content. Reading a book on the Web is a worse experience than reading a paperback. Online, the text is harder to read, less mobile, and less convenient to access. A book on the other hand has excellent resolution, portability, and "always on" access. If publishers realized that the online and offline reading experience is completely different, maybe they would stop crippling digital media and start using the Internet to satisfy customers and make more money.

The same goes for music. Napter provided a better experience than over-priced, hard to find singles, but a worse experience than album length CDs, which came with liner notes, all the songs, and zero download time. Instead of improving the CD experience and using Napster to sell more songs, the record industry is creating experiences customers hate, crippling their music with metered pricing and tethered downloads.

You would think that DivX and the VCR would have taught the recording industry a thing or two about their business. The VCR did not kill the cinema because seeing a movie in a theatre is completely different from seeing it at home. Similarly, DivX, a DVD format that stops working after a few plays, provides a worse experience than renting a movie at Blockbusters because customers hate metered pricing. Hollywood's current paranoia at online movie sharing demonstrates how out of touch they are with reality: waiting 12 hours for a movie to download through a broadband connection I don't have just to watch it on a little monitor is a worse experience than just renting the bloody thing.

The sooner publishers realize that, in the networked world, they're selling experiences and not content, the better off we'll all be. Customers will start getting products and services they like. Publishers will stop obsessing over how to cripple media and start differentiating their experiences on different channels. And artists might even start benefiting from the sort of live experiences only they can create. In the digital world, experience is king.

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Clue to publishers: you're selling experiences, not content | 43 comments (39 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
What? (3.50 / 14) (#3)
by Defect on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 12:30:02 PM EST

If publishers realized that the online and offline reading experience is completely different, maybe they would stop crippling digital media and start using the Internet to satisfy customers and make more money.

So you're suggesting that companies make their products more able to be copied, which will in turn make them more money? That makes no sense whatsoever, the crippling is to enforce copyright, it's not just to piss off the consumer.

Instead of improving the CD experience and using Napster to sell more songs, the record industry is creating experiences customers hate, crippling their music with metered pricing and tethered downloads.

Are you actually reading the links your including? The industry is trying to use napster to sell more songs, and that is precisely why it won't work, napster started free, people loved it because you could get music easily and immediately (minus the download). There were no fees; quick, simple, done. I assume you mean let napster remain free which will in turn allow people to hear more music which will send them to their record store, and you're still wrong. Radio helped the music industry by playing lower quality music throughout the day, if you hear a song you like on a station, chances are you won't hear it again for another 6 or 12 hours. It made you want to get it so you could listen to it whenever you want. Napster (et al) allowed you to get a song you want immediately and listen to it whenever you want to and never have to worry about it again. That is bad for sales. There is no desire with napster, you hear something, you get it, no further thought required.

The issue with all of this is copyright, this is not an experience vs content issue (which is completely wrong in itself). Companies do not want their products copied, that is where all this crippling and monitoring comes in. It's about trying to sell one thing to one person, and not one to many. Whether it be experiences or whatever the fuck you want to call it. That is not the god damned issue. I could call it piss in a cup, and the companies would still want to make sure i couldn't photocopy it, trade it on cd, or email it to my aunt in new york.

No one cares about what they sell, they only want to make the most money possible off it. If people are able to freely copy then that is an immediate warning sign to the companies. Free==No Money. Simple as that.

This is ridiculous, when you take away everything that is blatantly wrong and absurd about this article, it's basically a boring monologue about what "content" should be called.
defect - jso - joseth || a link
Not quite (3.33 / 9) (#4)
by weirdling on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 01:15:29 PM EST

Actually, I have bought several CDs after listening to music on Napster. So have most of my friends. I don't know anyone who only downloads the music and never buys the CD. I do have several friends with no internet access whatsoever, though.

Anyway, I think this attitude of 'screw the consumer' because 'the consumer is evil at heart' will eventually backfire on the industry. Treat people nicely, avoid litigation, and they will respond by buying your product in a greater number than those who treat people badly and sue for the smallest infraction. That's one reason I don't own a single Microsoft product, their idiotic copy-protection schemes and their insistance on EULAs that render unto them my firstborn.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Conversely (3.66 / 9) (#5)
by Defect on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 01:37:19 PM EST

I only know of people who only download music and don't even consider buying cd's any more, me included. I have a burner, and i have a 56k modem, i can download 3 cd's of music every night. And i'm not talking about singles, i'm talking about high quality full rips of the cd's i would normally want to get.

I only bother buying cd's if i can't find high quality mp3's, or if i can't find them at all, and that's fairly rare.

And this is just me over a 56k, and i have 4 gigs of mp3's, i know someone at college and another with cable who both have 30 gig hard drives filled.

Almost all my friends (including computer illiterates) have burners and don't see any reason to buy cd's any more.
defect - jso - joseth || a link
[ Parent ]
Online, people have paid for experience (4.50 / 6) (#12)
by Zimran on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 04:13:15 PM EST

Amazon sells more books than anyone else even though it is not (and never has been) the cheapest online bookstore (MySimon will find you cheaper prices with no problem). AOL is the largest ISP even though it's the most expensive (it's easy to find cheaper alternatives).

Now I'm not claiming that folks don't get bargains through MySimon or cheaper ISPs, but people are willing to pay a premium for experience: Amazon and AOL provide a better experience.

Most folks who used Napster still bought CDs and maybe even went to more concerts. They offer different experiences.

The problem is that the recording industry gets so worked up over what people might do that they don't look at what people actually do. They also made this mistake with the VCR

A simple subscription service (that did not resort to tethered downloads) would have generated money from Napster. Improving CDs (by including better liner notes, limited editions, signed copies etc...) would have given fans more reasons to buy them. Better concerts (no ticketmaster charges), with better merchandizing would have improved attendance and revenue from live. More music. Happier consumers. Richer recording industry.

People would still be free to burn their own CDs if they chose. But other channels would offer experiences that Napster did not, and some people would value (and pay for) that also.

By fixating what people *might* do and controlling access to content, the recording industry is misunderstanding its market and what it means to offer digital services. Over the next 2 years the big industry initiatives will flop, unless they remove draconian access control measures. In 10 years, people will have figured out how to use digital distribution in music in a way that will look more like Napster than the recording industry's current attempts do.

[ Parent ]

Should I put my book online? (4.42 / 7) (#17)
by johnny on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 06:36:44 PM EST

I put the first 13 chapters of my novel (about 1/4 of the book) online at my website (see sig). ( To be precise, this evaluates to 80 pages of a 359 page book).

Had I not done so, I probably would have sold fewer than half the copies that I've sold. Maybe less than half. People have generally responded well to the proportion of the book that I make available freely. I give them enough to know whether they like the book & the way I write. Many novelists have taken to putting the first chapter online, but I don't think a mere chapter is very generous. You can read more than a chapter while browsing in a bookstore.

I believe that O'Reilly and others make the complete texts of their books availble online on the bet that most people would rather just go to a bookstore and buy it than print out the damn thing on a laser printer. But unlike the big publishers whose books are available everywhere, my book has very limited bookstore distribution (I hope to change this some day, but who knows?). So I think if my entire book were available online, it would hurt my sales.

As for selling online experience, it has been my intent to make my website interesting enough that people would go to it to be amused, and wind up making a purchase along the way. Alas, while I think my site is at least a *little* amusing (go see! go see!), it's too much work & I don't have the time to do 1/10 what I would like to.

Several people have asked for the book in ebook format. I used to be paranoid about that; I'm not so much paranoid any more-- I don't think ebook readers would cut into my sales very much. But preparing the book for that format is just work, and I already have about a million more important things that I should be doing to market this little beastie.

By the way, I decided on Chapter 13 because in that chapter I introduce a character named "Ivan Marki," a Salt Lake City dectective. I named him after a professor I had at Hamilton College & I thought I might be able to milk a few sales from alums

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Re: What? - A modell similar to radio. (3.00 / 3) (#27)
by nefertari on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:04:36 AM EST

Radio helped the music industry by playing lower quality music throughout the day, if you hear a song you like on a station, chances are you won't hear it again for another 6 or 12 hours. It made you want to get it so you could listen to it whenever you want. Napster (et al) allowed you to get a song you want immediately and listen to it whenever you want to and never have to worry about it again. That is bad for sales. There is no desire with napster, you hear something, you get it, no further thought required.
This should lead to a similar modell for MP3s. Why does the music industrie not publish complete albums in a reduced soundquality, but so, that you could hear, if you like the music? And (to demonstrate that the quality on the CD is really good) include a 10 second part of every song, or one complete in the highest possible quality. Then you had something similar to the radio modell:

You can download the songs (or for the radio, record them on a casette), but for the best version you need the CD.

[ Parent ]

Noone reads ebooks? (2.90 / 11) (#6)
by Nick Ives on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 01:50:11 PM EST

I guess that means I dont exist. Whenever I go on a journey I useually take the train and before I go I useually take a couple of books from project gutenberg with me to read on my palm.

I think your drastically underestimating how many people actually use the etext's that are on the net atm....

forever moving, or not. Beh....

Er, I think he means ... (3.28 / 7) (#8)
by Dlugar on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 02:25:13 PM EST

Encrypted PDF eBooks ... and the reason people don't read these encrypted PDF eBooks is precisely because they can't "take a couple of books ... with me to read on my palm."

It will be interesting to see if free (as in speech, since that seems to be more important) content overtakes proprietary content, because of these artificial restrictions placed on the latter. I know I don't use proprietary stuff unless there exists cracks, patches, and so forth to enable me to do with them what I wish.


[ Parent ]
I Disagree (3.87 / 8) (#7)
by Dlugar on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 02:16:42 PM EST

I think that publishers are very much convinced that it is possible for them to, slowly and steadily, put more and more restrictions on what end-users can do with the actual content, eventually guaranteeing them a permanent, steady cash flow.

The sad thing is that if people cared a little more to fight back for their rights, then this steady encroachment would end--and possible even turn backwards, leading to a "more fair" compromise between copyright holders and the public domain. Unfortunately this is not so.

Sure, things like DivX failed ... but things like Macrovision, DVD encryption, and the DMCA have succeeded--and to the RIAA, MPAA, and publishers, this can mean more money. Screw the customers--they're not what's important, it's the money they're after. And with Joe Sixpack becoming even more apathetic about the situation, don't you think that with a little more planning, a DivX-like scheme could succeed? An entirely pay-per-view (with commercials!) scheme? Encrypted from the station to the screen, and even if somehow you manage to get the music/video/eBook into a copyable form, the FBI will knock down your door looking for that Gnutella server you're running in your basement.

The future is now, people--the media industries have noted, and noted well, that these sorts of tactics, these blatant (and not-so-blatant) over-reaching copyright laws, they all work to put money in their pockets. Why on earth would they stop and sell less-profitable experiences instead?


The tighter your grip... (4.16 / 6) (#23)
by malcolm on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:49:06 AM EST

If publishers do this, consumers will be completely powerless to stop it. However, they will still be pissed off and frustrated by it. This means that any alternatives which aren't restricted will have a big advantage.

For example, say I am a country music fan and like to have lots of mp3s. When my new CD can't be ripped or downloadable files can only be played 10 times before paying again, I'm going to look elsewhere. A short search on the net will bring up lots of places (eg. the old mp3.com) where less well known artists ply their wares. These people are less concerned about copying and more concerned about their fans, besides they probably don't want to pay for a licence for the latest SDMI authoring software. Sure the music quality may be lower but it will equally be far more varied than the typical top of the charts music.

This is happening now in lots of area - from software to literature and journalism. All the amateur guys need now is a reasonable way that their fans can support them. Then, every new restrictive tactic the establish media pulls will only be another reason for people to switch.

[ Parent ]
Simple rule for publishers (4.30 / 13) (#9)
by jwb on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 03:08:01 PM EST

I propose a simple rule for publishers to follow. Make it easier for people to buy the product than to steal it. Today, it is sometimes more convenient to steal a product than to actually buy it. For example, if I wanted a CD with ten of my favorite pop radio songs from ten different albums, I could either go to a CD store, buy the ten CDs for $180(!), rip the songs and maybe burn the CD *if* the publisher hadn't used any stupid PCM corruption tricks, or I could jump on Napster or its descendants, download the ten MP3s in a few minutes, and burn the CD no problem.

The publisher is missing a revenue opportunity to sell me the custom CD at a reasonable price. The same goes for DVDs. I like to watch movies from all over the world, but I have a Region 1 DVD player. So, I like to rip foreign DVDs, remove the region coding (and CSS and Macrovision), and burn them back to DVD. I loan these to my friends, or borrow them as the case may be. The publishers are missing out on a lot of revenue they could make by simply ditching their silly access-control software.

Publishers have to wake up to the reality that their products are too difficult to acquire and use, and getting more difficult every year.

pick and choose (3.40 / 5) (#19)
by estes grover on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 08:46:18 PM EST

For example, if I wanted a CD with ten of my favorite pop radio songs from ten different albums, I could either go to a CD store, buy the ten CDs for $180(!), rip the songs and maybe burn the CD...
I have a co-worker who was involved with a start-up company with a similar idea. They wanted to build kiosks where you could select from any number of single music tracks and then burn a CD. They had deals setup with some of the major music publishers. Unfortunately, the start-up folded about the same time many of the .com ventures went under.

[ Parent ]
Seen that before (4.00 / 4) (#32)
by Erbo on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 07:32:14 PM EST

I have a co-worker who was involved with a start-up company with a similar idea. They wanted to build kiosks where you could select from any number of single music tracks and then burn a CD.
Sounds like a system called "Personics" (described here) that let people make their own mix cassettes in the store, for about $1.25 a song or thereabouts. It hit music stores briefly in the late 80's/early 90's, but was then basically killed off by the music industry. (See this Business 2.0 article). Sound familiar, anyone?

Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

Don't spill the beans! You could be rich! (4.20 / 10) (#13)
by elenchos on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 04:51:19 PM EST

You've hit upon the paradigm of the twenty-first century! This is the e-business model that will rule e-commerce for the cypberfuture! You're a fool to give away this brilliant plan. Instead, you should be pitching this to venture capitalists, whose money you can spend paying artists and authors to produce content that you will package as experiences, which they will pay handily for, even though the mere content is easily and cheaply dupicated. It's cyber-riffic! You could be the next amazon.com! The next pets.com!

Er, bad example.

Seriously. Isn't this exactly the economics that was suppesdly going to make every dot com a huge success? All over the web you have companies going belly up and to stop it they've had to stop giving away free content, because they just weren't making money on "experiences?" One site after another is putting a fence around their content, and the ones that don't are not taking off and dominating the market.

Sure, this whole idea sounds really good. I used to believe it; lots of people used to believe it. But it hasn't worked yet. On the contrary, quite a few people have lost a lot of money gambling that it would work. So how can you blame publishers now who don't *get it*? Don't they have good reason to be disillusioned, and isn't it understandable that they are cautious? Is it fair for you to say they are the ones who need to get a clue? The clues are all around, and they all scream "This doesn't work!"

But if not, then you should put your money where your mouth is. There seems to be no shortage of true believers who say that protecting content is passe and that the future is selling experiences as you say. So go to, go to. Why don't all of you get your money together and sell some experiences? Nothing would better prove your case than you success, right?

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland

Selling experience (quite happily) (4.20 / 5) (#14)
by Zimran on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 05:48:05 PM EST


I'm already doing this. My content (www.winterspeak.com) is up and free for all to crib from, link to, think about, use, abuse etc.

I charge my employers for hiring me. I look for employers who, after checkout out my thoughts, will hire me for more money. My time is an excludable good. If I work for one person, I can't work for another. My thoughts are non-excludable, if I tell one person what I think, I lose nothing. Distributing my thoughts online is a much better way for me to make money than walking up to people and telling them (which uses up my limited time). Besides, no one would ever pay to listen to me.

I can get GNU/Linux for free. I can also buy it on a CD from Red Hat. Why do people choose Red Hat? It's a better, easier experience to install. And they're doing OK.

And remember, I'm not arguing for giving away experiences for free. A subscription Napster is OK by me. I'm saying they should think about their material not as content to be protected at all cost, but as experience. A Napster with tethered downloads or metered pricing provides a terrible experience customers will reject. Introducing crippled CD media will create a terrible experience customers will reject. Instead of fixating over material as "content" and placing ever tougher access restrictions that will turn a customer off, use each channel to generate the best experience and maximize overall sales. This does not mean throw away your business model, or give away excludable goods (like pets.com etc.) Nor does this mean online-only content companies "should" professionally survive (Feed, Suck, etc.) It just means that if you want to play the digital game, understand the medium and how your customers use it. Phil Greenspun, Seth Godin etc. etc. have their books available in their entirity online, but have had success in selling them offline also (books provide a better reading experience than computer). Loss leaders are old hat in the business world.

I would even go so far as to say that many web businesses did NOT package their services as experiences. They certainly created bad websites that did not sell things. Content companies never thought about how to create good experiences for their readers (subscriptions and micropayments create bad experiences, intrusive advertising creates bad experiences, begging does nothing to improve the experience either).

Using a free product in a primary market to grow a profitable secondary market is a time honored way to make money. AOL, and every other ISP runs on (OSS) TCP/IP. Free TV (primary market) creates valuable consumer attention (secondary market) to sell to advertisers. Cheap razors (primary market) grows the profitable secondary market for razorblades. Radio and MTV grows album sales. There is sound business strategy built into these examples, it does not excuse the reckless profiteering that marked the Internet boom. And it's just stupid to spend alot of money generating content you can't make money off of (Napster costs record companies nothing in that sense: no staff, no server time, nada).

Consumers will ignore digital music alternatives that create a bad experience (this does not mean music has to be free). Draconian access controls create a bad experience. Publishers can copyright their material, and prosecute offenders, but they should not be able to stop a band distributing its music for free online and trying to make money off touring, if that band so chooses, just as Microsoft should not be able to ban coders giving away their own software.

Look at it this way: retail shoplifting runs at around 1.5% and the record company allows retail stores to exist. Yet they're requiring Napster to have a 0% theft rate. This is clearly an issue of control and right of access, not merely "stealing content."

[ Parent ]

Red Hat is doing 'OK?' (4.00 / 6) (#15)
by elenchos on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 06:11:27 PM EST

There are those who take issue with Red Hat's claim that they are not hemorrhaging money like a gut shot gangsta. And that is supposed to convince everyone that they have it all wrong? Because Red Hat claims to be breaking even (sort of)?

This is your argument: Ignore all those companies that died horrible deaths. Look instead at these other companies that have a ways to go before they tank! And look, here's one that just came off life support (we think)!

That is enough for you to say "get a clue" to them? I'm sorry it sounds like the same old the-future-is-now webspeak. You didn't mention if winterspeak is actually making any money. I honestly hope it does, but until it does, and until these other ventures actually make money, I see no reason to sneer at tratitional business economics. I see no reason to scoff and treat them like they are stuck in the past.

And while DMCA may be a poorly-written law, there is nothing here to prove so convincingly that all this free stuff is good for anyone except consumers who like the ride they get at someone else's expense. Maybe someday, but it isn't someday yet, and until it is, don't expect the world to fall down at your feet.

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland
[ Parent ]

Traditional Businesses & Corporations/Capitoli (4.75 / 4) (#28)
by dasunt on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:31:39 PM EST

Traditional Businesses hemorrhage money when they try to start up. Tradition businesses lose money when they open (rule of thumb: no profits before 5 years). Traditional businesses spend a lot of money on advertising to get new customers to buy physical objects and services. Traditional businesses may have to do research and planning for years before they even sell a product.

A lot of traditional businesses fail. I believe the statistics say that the majority of new startups fail.

Yet we don't say that traditional businesses/capitalism model is bad, even if few businesses out there become big and the rest fail or only have moderate success. The web is the same way. Sure, it had too much money thrown at it, but there are brick & mortar examples out there with simular circumstances. So why not look at the companies that prove it is possible, after all, that's what we are debating, right? Can a business be successful if it gives away content for free? Redhat does it. I believe Cygnus also does it.

As for the line about consumers getting free stuff, well, why not? This is not a troll or a flame, I'm 100% serious? I believe that our culture and society should be setup to put the needs of people first. People are the consumers. Would we rather have a society that exists for the benefits of businesses, fictional legal entities? We should encourage the developement of lasting artistic expression that belongs to the people, not the corporations. The only reason why corporations should exist is to create ideas and benefit society. They should be considered a nessessary evil, simular to capitalism, and only be allowed to survive because history has shown that they are the most efficient way to control the flow of goods and services in our society so that people can make decisions to decide what efforts they want to make to get what products. As soon as a corporation exists only for itself, that corporation is a malignant growth on society. The United States was founded on the idea of a limited government with limited powers that are held in check, maybe we need simular laws that deal with corporations.

Just my $.02

[ Parent ]

Right on. (none / 0) (#34)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 02:15:32 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Umm, that's exactly what they want (3.50 / 8) (#16)
by jajuka on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 06:29:30 PM EST

I'm surprised no one seems to have said this already, but what you're proposing is exactly the scenario the publishers want.

I dunno about you, but when I buy a book, I'm buying a THING, a thing with specific content. If I like it I can read it again as many times as I like. If I don't I can trade it in toward something I do like at a used book store somewhere. Moreover if I want to read it five years from now I don't have to worry about whether or not it's in print or available online anywhere. I already have it. A book is a relatively permanent thing, unlike say an mp3. I know someone who converted all his cd's to mp3s and gave the cds away. I'm sure you can imagine how thrilled he was when his HD bit it and he went from having 20-30Gig of music to none.

Publishers would just love to change to an "experience" based system. Of course, when you shell out $26 or whatever for the new Neil Gaiman ebook, you'll only have the right to read it ONE time. After all, you only paid for one experience. If you want to experience it again, you'll have to cough up another $26 bucks.

I could actually accept a pay per view/micropayment system if the payments really were micro. Of course if pay per view television is any indication they'll be anything but.

But even if such a system did exist, I think I'd still prefer my nice permanent hard copy for anything that was actually worth "exeriencing".

No no, you've missed the point (4.42 / 7) (#18)
by klash on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 08:16:20 PM EST

You're taking the word "experience" to mean "single experience"; ie. pay-per-view. A bad thing if it's the only choice, I think everyone would agree.

But the article is using the word "experience" to differentiate between identical content on different mediums. Reading a book in electronic form is a different experience than reading it in dead-tree format, and people will buy a paper book even if they already have access to the exact same content in electronic format -- there's no other explanation for the fact that people still buy books that are freely available from project gutenberg!

A book is a relatively permanent thing, unlike say an mp3.

That's exactly what the article's saying! Owning something physical, like a book, is a different experience than owning the exact same thing in electronic format. The author then comes to the conclusion that publishers should stop worrying so much about stuff flowing freely online, because the experience of having something physical will still be incentive to buy something physical.

[ Parent ]

semantic games (3.60 / 5) (#22)
by jajuka on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:47:47 AM EST

I understand that is his point, but what he is trying to say and what he's actually saying are 2 different things in this case.

An experience is an abstract thing. When you go see a movie at a theater, you are paying for the experience. When you buy the DVD, I don't think you'll find anyone who'd say they're paying for the experience of owning the DVD, they want their copy of the content.

I agree with his point. I've bought plenty of DVDs CDs and books the content of which I have already "experienced" via some other avenue. But his terminology, his way of expressing it, plays right into the hands of those who would have it become a pay per view world.

I'd guess most people here belive if they buy a song in some unspecified form, they have the right to listen to it through any variety of applicable devices, and in a variety of locations. But listening to the song in your car is a different "experience" than listening to it in your home... Hmm. I smell another excuse to charge you.

[ Parent ]

I agree, but.. (3.28 / 7) (#20)
by PresJPolk on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 10:07:00 PM EST

I agree that these organizations are foolish in trying to extend the lifetime of their outdated business models, but I disagree with your minimization of the value of a downloaded video.

If I had the bandwidth, downloaded DVD (or even VideoCD) videos could be very valuable. And no, I wouldn't be limited to a monitor - my video card (a Matrox Millennium G450), like more and more these days, has the capability of outputting to a television.

That's not limiting at all.

Whatever you want to call it... (3.12 / 8) (#21)
by dnos on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 11:43:03 PM EST

Publishers would back off draconian access-control measures like the DMCA if they understood that they were selling experience, not content.

Um, no they wouldn't...it's still the same thing no matter if you called it "bologna". You miss the point. They want to make sure that you can't copy the bologna and have innumerable copies of the bologna that you can distribute to other people so they can get the bologna for free!

Same bologna in a posh restaurant? (none / 0) (#43)
by error 404 on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 12:19:06 PM EST

Restauranteurs know the difference between experience and content. And it's a real difference, not a matter of name.

I own two copies of Paradise Lost. One is a big, beautiful antique that I read a random page or two of at a time, sitting at a table, because it is too much a treasure to risk reading in comfort. The other is a basic volume that I'm reading cover-to-cover in bed. Same content, utterly different experience.

I enjoyed 2001 and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But I haven't even bothered to pick up the VHS versions of either - the content would (mostly) be there, but the experience would not.

I take my family out for dinner at an Italian restaurant sometimes, even though I can make a better batch of pasta myself for less money. Going out for dinner is an experience.

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

There's Nothing They Can Do... Now (4.50 / 6) (#24)
by sventhatcher on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 06:36:09 AM EST

The media industry would have a hard time suckering me into any on-line "experiences" right now. Not because of the money, but because of bandwidth mostly.

I'm still stuck on a 56K modem. I don't download mp3s. I don't download movies. I don't download ebooks. I rarely even visit sites with flash animation. It's just too slow, and it ties my hands. It'd be one thing if I could go download the latest new releases and still be able to actively talk to people and/or surf, but I can't. Downloading anything ties up all my bandwidth.

Streaming formats at modem speeds are rarely better than choppy staticy audio. Almost never will any streaming video even have the jerkiest of pictures. A black screen instead sits in Windows Media Player or Real. For a talk show, I'll buy it. For music, it's too poor in quality.

Reading things on-line of any length is a somewhat painful experience. Even if I could downloads worlds of bookage for cheap discount prices, I'd still rather have a honest-to-God book in my hands. No new design or marketing capaign can change that. Nothing short of e-paper that looks like the real printed word could stand a chance.

Likewise, even if I had massive downloading capacity, I'd still buy CDs. I'd still rent videos. I find it difficult to enjoy music with the highs and lows cut out, especially some of the bass-heavy music I tend to favor. Video is often grainy, and even the best rips are still on a small screen... and nothing could ever threaten my patronage of movie theatres except possibly really good VR equipment. =)

Even that's pushing it, because theatre soundsystems will always be better than any others around. If we move to a VR or neutral interface system then virtual theatres will suffice. Never will movie viewing be as pleasurable on a home system as in a professional theatre. =)

--Sven (Now with bonus vanity weblog! (MLP Sold Seperately))

Paying for your experiences .. (3.50 / 4) (#30)
by dave920 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:57:22 PM EST

I agree with a lot of what you said, and can understand entirely where you are coming from with a lot of it (buying movies instead of downloading ones that are poor quality). Myself, I still burn my own CDs, and have not purchased a "real" CD for nearly three years (not counting those that were given to me as gifts).

My question to you is at what point does the price of your favorable experience out-weigh what you can get for free? In this, I am referencing your choice to go to the cinemas instead of downloading a movie to your computer. I pay $8.50 when I see a movie (at Showcase Cinemas). When this specific theater opened two years ago, they charged (if I recall correctly) $7.25 per movie. While a $1.25 increase over two years may seem like a nominal fee if you only see a movie every now and then, I have noticed that I have seen a significantly fewer amount of movies in the cinema, rather than renting them (where the price has remained constant and the video store for years) or downloading them from the Net (always free).

So where do you draw the line at when your favorable experience is too expensive than its alternatives?

[ Parent ]

The Answer (Also.. DVDs vs. Film Reels?) (3.66 / 3) (#31)
by sventhatcher on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 07:11:56 PM EST

I can't set a price as a glass ceiling where I would cease being willing to pay for the "experience". If anything, I would probably be more likely to reduce the number of times I partook of the "experience" to only things that were really interesting to me.

Right now, there's not much indication that points to me having to deal with that problem anytime soon. Prices are still pretty reasonable (I only pay $6 for a movie ticket and $17 and change for a CD) for me.

As it stands, I probably go to the movies 3-4 times a month and buy maybe 4-5 new CD's a month. It varies, but that's a pretty good guideline.

9 times out of 10, I'll enjoy a movie more in the theatre than I would in even the most impressive of home theatres. Stadium seating, massive stereo, and massive screen. Those things are hard to combat.

What I'd really like to see is some changes in the way that theatres get their movies perhaps.

Does anyone know how DVDs compare in quality to the original film reel? How much cheaper would it be for a production house to ship out some DVDs custom built for theatres of the movie early in production? How much cheaper would it be for theatres to use a digital projection system rather than the expensive reel equipment?

Think about it for a second. Theatres could use normal off-the-shelf equipment from their choice of vendors rather than dealing in the probably largely monopolized reel-machine vendor market.

--Sven (Now with bonus vanity weblog! (MLP Sold Seperately))
[ Parent ]

PPP settings (3.00 / 1) (#41)
by Dwonis on Sat Aug 04, 2001 at 09:35:06 AM EST

Set your MTU/MRU to something small, like in the neighbourhood of 500-bytes. This will reduce your throughput a little, but it will allow you to have multiple streams open at once with a tolerable amount of lag.

[ Parent ]
Are K5 posters really so naive? (4.60 / 10) (#25)
by magullo on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 06:52:26 AM EST

The intellectual property laws traditionally balance public (society) and private (creator) benefits, with very little left for the rights of publishers and distributors. The DMCA and other industry initiatives are part of a trend to dissolve that "antiquated" notion and leave all the money and power in the hands of publishers and distributors. Which is bad in itself, since it places more emphasis on disseminating existing material than on encouraging new stuff (no good for society or creators).

The "culture" industry has been preparing for a long time, for instance the music industry owns not just the distribution and publishing rights, but also the content (check any CD copyright notice and compare it to the copyright notice of a novel). But even if they own the content, there is still the issue of returning it to public domain after a fixed amount of time. When the digital revolution brought the possibility of public domain content being widely and freely available, they switched to protecting the format. Which is really bad, since both society and creator are then at the absolute whim of the publishers and distributors.

The DMCA is a law targeting intelligence. Twice this year the law has been used to stop academic disseminating of knowledge based on embarrassing discoveries about digital formats used by the industry (RIAA music watermarking initiative and Adobe's pre-world war encryption techniques). The law basically says we are not supposed to look inside the things we buy. This is outright depraved. We are giving the industry power to perpetuate itself: it gets a constant revenue stream and there is less to worry about in terms of newcomers or competitors improving on existing technology.

And now to the internet. To say that the free stuff model doesn't work is to say the web doesn't work, since Apache, a free web server, still runs in close to 60% of all net servers. Let's not forget some basic facts before we jump into dumb conclusions. 80% of all business fail - whether they are in the Internet or in Manila. Spending over a billion dollars in "branding" without a hint of a revenue stream is suicidal (although some people claim they didn't know this 2-3 years ago).

Furthermore, "free" is a relative term. Let's look at Napster. What Napster did was not encourage free file trading, but rather provide universal access to all music. Put that way, that is probably illegal and should be shut down, but it is also a great legal opportunity for the industry to cash in. A subscription model that offers legitimate recordings would no doubt be a great success (think cable TV) and would render the digital copy issue irrelevant (just as trading taped episodes of Seinfield is not as attractive as paying for cable).

What really is disgusting about this whole issue is the disrespect of culture corporations for their clients (unfortunately to be expected) and their profoundly demented business practices and models, which disrespect their own content (clearly something is wrong there).

Bad word (3.33 / 6) (#26)
by unsphered on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 09:00:33 AM EST

Instead of placing ever more draconian authorization measures on unpopular devices, publishers should realize that, in the digital world, they're selling experiences not content.

Very dangerous to mingle the concept of "experience" with the world of mass-produced commodities. In theory at least, only you can have "your" experience of anything. Corporations are just ignorant enough to think they can co-opt even that. The day someone starts selling me my experience, Spielberg has won.

One capitalist always kills many. ~ Marx.

Reactions of a frightened industry (3.66 / 6) (#29)
by mathematician on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:33:53 PM EST

The RIAA, MPAA and BSA. Those associations represent large corporations that make their money through the control of intelletual property dissemination. If they were to shrivel and die tomorow, do you think it would be impossible to make money as a musician, playwrite or software designer? No way!

Do you remember the attempt at building hard drive copy protection into the ATA spec? It failed. Do you know why? It is the hardware manufacturing industry laughing at the IP industry. The manufacturing industry will continue to thrive even after the death of the RIAA, MPAA or BSA. So will musicians, playwrites and software developers. The intangeability of IP assets works against industries that depend on it.

How long do you think the DMCA will stay the way it is? Definately not forever. If the section of the DMCA that makes DeCSS and Napster illegal were to be removed, it would spell the death of those industries in the long run. They've read their Sun Tzu: "Where you are strong, appear weak. Where you are weak, appear strong". They are weak and shaking in their boots. What if they couldn't depend on their lawyers to save them?

Do you think Dimitry's case is going unnoticed? No way! Do you think 2600's case went unnoticed? Of course not. It won't take forever to inform the right people, just a long time :)

Until then, all music I write will be public domain and all software I write will be Free.

What about sheet music? (4.00 / 3) (#33)
by Fon2d2 on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 11:50:34 AM EST

That's what I want to know about. Artists like Beethoven and Mozart lived centuries ago. Where are the public domain archives of their works? Where is my free sheet music? You can't find it on the web. Plenty of guitar tab for contemporary music? Sure. But classical sheet music? No such luck. All you will find are order forms and you can't even look at any part of it before you order. I at least have to try playing an arrangement before I buy it so there's no way I'll ever buy sheet music off the net. I don't know the details behind why publishers like Schmitt can put their copyrights on Beethoven's work but damn it would be nice if somebody created a free online archive of all the work that's fallen into the public domain.

Re: What about sheet music? (4.66 / 3) (#35)
by nkeynes on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 12:34:54 AM EST

You might want to take a look at the Mutopia project which, among others, is trying to do exactly that.

As for how publishers can hold copyrights on ostensibly public domain works, generally speaking they do their own layout and sometimes annotations, both of which are of course copyrightable - obviously they don't have any copyright on the original music itself.

[ Parent ]

Ok, I'm not strictly violating my own rules (3.00 / 3) (#36)
by yesterdays children on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 10:01:26 AM EST

As I'm not going to argue the DMCA. I surrender here ;-)

But the easiest way for the content industry to avoid this whole mess is to not distribute anything digitally for openly programmable platforms. No CD's, no e-books, face it, any digital format easily read by openly programmable devices should not contain copyrighted work, or anything that shouldn't be copied. Software itself is ok, as it can "phone home" or otherwise be registerd ala XP's scheme. XP is pretty big and will need support and upgrades, so there is a motivation to register (its also somewhat crack resistant). XP and Microsoft can implement some level of trust in home computer systems when hardware is involved via so called 'signed drivers.' Microsoft in cooperation with hardware vendors can provide a trusted path for media that will curtail unwanted copying. There is much work being done on the new media formats. I think its good for both pro and anti DMCA folks as the more successful this is, the more it removes future risks of the Dmitry's of the world being imprisoned.

Linux will still be around, but by definition, it isn't as trusted a platform for content providers on the end users desk anyways. (Is this really true tho? What about Real Media clients? Aren't those close sourced and somewhat resistant to reverse engineering anyways?) It can definitely serve trusted content on the server side tho.

Obviously not a security geek; (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by simon farnz on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 10:38:30 AM EST

You miss one important point; "secure" hardware and software is not secure. Security in a computer context is about ensuring that trust boundaries are physically secured against unauthorised tampering, and that there are no knownvunerabilities in the software. At some point the content becomes human readable; then in theory it can be hacked. For example, if you know about the music codec used by a media file, you can avoid introducing audible artifacts when you re-encode.

Sure, it is hard work to hack an encrypted DVD; however libdvdcss from the VideoLAN project proves that it can be done.

You also fall into the trap of assuming that closed source is more secure than open source; granted, I know less about a closed product, but it is still hackable.
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

You're right, I don't work in security. (3.66 / 3) (#38)
by yesterdays children on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 11:01:51 AM EST

I'm also not a geek of any kind.

Good points tho. I've always wanted to work up a simple case that, given a sealed hardware unit, would attempt to implement security. A couple of premises:

  • The sealed hardware unit contains flash or otherwise nonvolatile memory.
  • The sealed hardware unit is the last digital device in the signal path.
  • No attempt on preventing analog recording of result.
  • All software involved is closed source.
  • The sealed hardware unit is replaced periodically by customer contract.

By sealed hardware unit, I'm talking standard manufacturing process, ie., circuit board in epoxy block.

What do you think? Crackable? Economically?

[ Parent ]

Security and media (4.33 / 3) (#39)
by Zimran on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 11:35:57 AM EST

I think you both raised some good points. Here are my thoughts:
1) Publishers, if they're not ready to deal with the business consequences of digital content, should not go into the business. CDs are easy to rip, and they will always be rippable (note: EASE of ripping is pretty important here). Tapes and vinyl are harder to rip (but yes, still rippable). And forget about eBooks.

2) Security through obscurity, while it can slow folks down, is ultimately less secure than open tested security. I don't know about hardware, but for software, an open secutiry algorithm poked at by all will end up being better than a closed algorithm. ESR writes about how this works in the context of quake cheats.

[ Parent ]

Crackable yes; Economically maybe not (none / 0) (#42)
by simon farnz on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 06:28:04 AM EST

Definitely crackable; there are two routes to breaking a device like that.
  1. Break open the box; this involves lying to the original owner, and claiming that you lost it. For price reasons, the box will only contain off-the-shelf components; you can take a raw digital stream just prior to the DAC and record that to your PC. Of course, this is not something you can do often; however, the replacement period is likely to be quite long (assuming a mass-produced unit, box is likely to cost $20 to produce, but handling, shipping etc will easily triple that).
  2. Hack it at input; capture the input data stream in some way, and reverse engineer it; you know what goes in, what comes out, and you have some idea of how it is coded. This option becomes even easier if you can create your own recordings. Yes, this option is hard work, but it is next to impossible to prevent.
Fundamentally, digital security has to be about establishing trust between the producer and the consumer, just as physical security is about trusting people. Bear in mind that the input signal has to be provided somehow; if it goes through any untrusted device, it can be hacked.

A sealed unit can be made hard to crack, but history shows that it is cheaper and simpler to establish trust, and prevent those who break your trust from obtaining material. Don't forget that the music industry tried to have blank tapes banned from public retail; when that failed, they lobbied for a tax on blank tapes, to cover piracy losses. Those losses have not ensued, and the industry survived, partly by improving the product so that a pirate version was unattractive. I suspect that the same will eventually happen with digital media.
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

Bought MP3s (4.00 / 2) (#40)
by ZorbaTHut on Sat Aug 04, 2001 at 05:44:15 AM EST

I suppose this is a case of Me Too, but I thought I'd relay my experiences with mp3s out on the 'net.

Way back when, when the MP3 movement was just getting started, one of my friends told me to get some Nine Inch Nails music. Apparently it was available on their website in mp3. (I find this hard to believe now, but I have clear memories, so . . .)

I downloaded half of it - which took a night (14.4 modem) - and decided I liked it. So I went out and bought the CD, used, because I couldn't afford new, I was broke.

Well, much later, I was browsing some They Might Be Giants sites. Someone suggested taking a look at Moxy Fruvous, so I booted up Napster and snagged half a dozen tracks. They were good. So I put 'em on my Christmas list. Now I've got four Moxy Fruvous CDs (the results of two Christmases.)

Recently a band called the Nields visited my college. I went to the concert (on urgings from friends), then when it was over, ran back to my dorm and got money so I could buy a CD. They were good.

And very recently, They Might Be Giants visited, and of course I forked over the money to watch them. (They rocked.) And it didn't hurt that SR-71 was also playing, which I had downloaded a track of a while back and liked.

Now, I admit, these are four isolated cases, and I've got about 16 gigs of MP3s at this point, from modern music to trance/techno to soundtracks to J-pop. And I've spent maybe $100 on music from that. But . . . I probably wouldn't have spent even that much if the music hadn't been available, because music just wasn't that important to me then. Now it is. So now I spend money - not much, because I'm eternally broke - but anything that makes it through the gauntlet of hardware, software, jewelry-making supplies, and assorted wire gauges for chainmail has to go into *something*, doesn't it?

And at this very moment I'm listening to Shoutcast, and I have a list of about 40 songs I need to download once I get back to my main system. Probably a lot of them I'll try to get the complete works of the artist, and I'm not pretending I'll buy even a tenth of them, because I'm not going to. But maybe I'll find an artist I like, and I'll buy a CD off ebay or something.

I suppose it's not worth commenting that if I could buy a CD for $10 instead of $18, I'd buy a lot more. And if I knew the artist got $5 of the profit rather than whatever meager fraction it is that they get, I'd also buy a lot more. But I'll mention it anyway :)

Clue to publishers: you're selling experiences, not content | 43 comments (39 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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