19 July 2005

New Business Models are... well... Magic!

I'm not a fan of Harry Potter, nor are my kids, but I do like magic. And one of the fastest "presto change-os" I've seen lately is the way the recently (over-hyped if you ask me) release of the 6th Harry Potter book has magically changed from a locked-down physical artefact into both text and audio online entities.

Why yes, it is piracy, thanks for asking.

But interestingly, the discourse around these postings seem to suggest that they are related to author JK Rowlings's decision not to make Potter and his prince, half-blood as he may be, available in (legal and licensable) e-book, and podcast formats. The suggestion is that, were the newest addition to the Hogwarts collection available to be bought in other formats than merely a hardcover book, they would have sold, and likely sold big time.

Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig (check out Free Culture and Code V.2), among others know this to be true. A hotly anticipated title, made available in electronic format, even for free download, still becomes a bestseller. Indeed, making titles available electronically can be used for promotion, as extra revenue channels, or as a courtesy to loyal, paying customers who recognize that the same content as different media have different messages, or effects.

One other observation: We are increasingly learning that, with the changes resulting from ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity, the most sustainable sources of revenue will become increasingly indirect - with sometimes two or three levels of indirection from the nominal product or service. That's a bit of magic that will take our industrial-age-borne corporate mentalities a while to understand.
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