Building Better Analogies: Book Saver, Turntables & Real Value for Book Lovers.

If you’re interested in the digital transition within the world of book publishing and you haven’t yet had your daily jolt of the fear-mongering conclusion-jumping that passes for journalism these days please check out this article that originally appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.

A few things wrong with this article right off the top:

1) The Book Saver is not really analogous to the cd burner it is more analogous to the USB turntable. Also produce by Ion.

2) Instead of trying to grapple with the reality of what this product says about consumer demand/behavior and the pace of adaptation in the industry it jumps right to the cul-de-sac of panic that we call copyright infringement and stops there.

Like that’s it. Like there’s nowhere else to go with this.

Just assume criminal intent right off the bat, don’t look closer at the product or think very deeply about what it signifies, angle the story to inflame fear and maybe invoke some rhetoric around pending copyright legislation.

There you have it. The template for the new sub-genre of digital book publishing journalism.


Let me show you something that you may not have seen before:

The Ion USB turntable is the better analogy for the Ion Book Saver than the cd burner.

It is an inexpensive way for people to convert their vinyl records to high-quality DRM-free MP3 files. People like me who collect vinyl records and have many records that are a) not available in digital format or b) poorly represented by the audio quality of the mass produced mp3, find this device very useful.

It allows me to preserve the sound of vinyl source. Essentially allowing me to do a better job of preserving some of the real gems in my collection. I hook up my laptop to the turntables/mixer combo in my home stereo and can play the mp3 rather than bringing out the vinyl every time I want to hear the music.

This is how the Book Saver will be used, as well.

It will help people to preserve, store and digitize their books. For reading on their own devices. That’s all.


Piracy: The Pregnant Subtext.

The standard assumption is that people will only use the Book Saver to pirate books and flood the P2P networks with a surge of material that will unquestionably push our entire civilization to the brink of collapse.

Here’s how some labels in the music industry have responded to ubiquitous digital content, P2P file sharing and consumer demand for physical media:

A brand new, freshly pressed slab of vinyl by Vancouver’s Black Mountain. Recorded in 2010. Comes with a free high quality mp3 version and a note that says ‘Thank You’ for purchasing the album.

Respect for the fan. Real value for my money.


Sharing, Books and P2P.

I have never believed that an ebook has any more value than what the consumer believes it to be worth. Please look into the much debated Radiohead In Rainbows example for more on this theory.

It is what it is. Produce a quality physical product and people will buy it.

Set the digital file free (as in libre, not gratis, though this is a bit of a Moebius Strip), respect your customers choices and stay out of their way.

That’s about as succinct as I can be.

I presented this at the SFU Summer Publishing Workshops in July – Sharing Culture in Books and the Benefits of Openness.


The problem isn’t that companies like Ion are producing products that people find useful and are willing to pay for.

The problem is the culture of fear and insecurity that articles like the one in the Ottawa Citizen promote and that some people are only too willing to buy into.

Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.

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