The sale of Frommer’s to Google got me thinking.
At Bowker, we’ve noticed several publishers who crank out POD titles that are compendia of Wikipedia articles. Yes, that’s right – these publishers crawl Wikipedia, and pull out articles that are related, and make books out of them.
Thousands of books. MILLIONS of books. All with ISBNs, denoting them as tradeable products in the book supply chain.
This strikes me as a strange phenomenon given the gradual migration of content from product to service.
In the book industry, we are so focused on the book as product. Yet, Google’s purchase (and its purchase of Zagat) tells us that, freed from the strictures of a bound product, content can actually be a service. Wikipedia is a service. Yelp is a service. Epicurious is a service.
The closer we get to disruption, the more we cling to established ways of doing things. So perhaps it’s not surprising that, as an industry, we’re churning out millions and millions of products comprised of content that is intended as a service. Soon we will begin publishing magazines made up of Epicur — oh, wait.
If your content is as good and valuable as you think it is, then think about it as a service people will pay for rather than a series of products that you print out and ship. Going in reverse only kills more trees.