Don’t fragment books (or other content)

I agree with Devin Coldewey at CrunchGear that Andrew Wylie’s deal to publish big authors’ backlists exclusively on the Amazon Kindle is bad for readers (and for authors and for the industry).

Fragmenting content such that one has to buy one device to read one author and another to read another is blind to the needs and realities of the market. It’s dealmaking for dealmaking’s sake.

If I were one of those authors, I’d squeal like a columnist put behind a Times paywall (either one). Random House is right to stick it back to Wylie and refuse to do business with the now-niche agency. And Amazon is putting itself in a dangerous position to be the enemy, not the friend, of writers, publishers, and readers. But Amazon’s no fool. It is driving a wedge into the heart of the industry.

The real upshot of this deal, I think, is that agents and publishers alike will find themselves locked out as big authors make deals directly with Amazon.

Yes, the Kindle reader is available on laptops and phones and iPads and coming Android tablets. But it won’t be available on other eBooks, and that’s going to hurt the eBook market’s growth, which could affect Amazon, even as it announces that its Kindle book sales exceeded hardback sales last month.

This is the same fear I have about the appification of content with magazine editors gleefully slapping their stories onto iPad apps in the belief that it returns control of the experience and business model to them when, in fact, it cuts them off from every browser user around the world. Nose. Face. Where’s my knife?

In the early days of content on mobile, we saw this game play out: Carriers made exclusive deals to get content in hopes that would get users to buy their phones instead of the other guys’. Didn’t work. A phone’s a phone. A browser’s a browser. A book’s a book.

And an e-book better damned well be an e-book, or books and authors and publishers and agents are all screwed.