Morgan Cowie 2009 in Review: Cowboys, Ninjas, and Bears

It’s been a big year for territory shifting in property rights, market share and pricing power dynamics. Who better to help me explain it than my old friends, cowboys, ninjas, and bears?

The Cowboy: Google

In this corner, the Author’s Guild and the Association of American Publishers. In this corner, an ever-expanding web crawler/tool builder/information aggregator known as a verb and noun: Google. In 2009, the final face-off.

The Google Book Settlement was heatedly debated and the final settlement was far from unanimously adored. This class action lawsuit has, however, set a remarkable legal precedent for better or for worse. Publishers and creators who opt-in are getting paid royalties; Google is expanding searchable content. Whether you look at it as a win/win or a lose/lose or some zero sum variation, there’s no doubt that that in this Wild West, digital book copying and sharing without restriction has ridden into the sunset.

The Ninjas: Kindle, Kobo, B&N, Sony, Stanza, Specter of the Apple Tablet & The Ghost of 2009 Past PlasticLogic

2009 was a year of stealthy and strategic attempts to gain market dominance in the battle of the eReaders. In the first half of the year, Amazon’s Kindle was king (at least of the press hits). The Kindle continues to dominate although B&N’s Nook looks to be a potential assassin of the one reader/one retailer eBook supply chain. And don’t count Kobo out - with the rebranding comes a set of nunchuks with ‘global’ and ‘appeal’ scrolled upon them.

The Bears: Amazon vs Publishers

As noted above, Amazon’s dominant market share may be upset in the coming year but in 2009, Amazon set the pace and pricing of the eBook market. That is, until the publishers fought back with their own set of tactics: delayed released of digital formats. The bears are still going toe-to-toe on this with Amazon and other eBook retailers looking for simultaneous eBook and print release and publisher refusing to take lightly the hit to their margins that the preferred $9.99 price point would deliver. Two heavy hitting beasts with no clear truce in sight. 2009 was the year of first blows and 2010 looks to be a continuation of the skirmish.