Try as they might to deny the inevitable, traditional book publishers were forced to confront the realities of online distribution when Amazon began its "Search Inside the Book" service a couple of years ago. This year, the Authors Guild sued Google over its plans to produce a digital library of printed works.
Princeton University and other tried to create some form of compromise this summer by offering digital alternatives at a lower price, but they were quickly forced to amend their plans after receiving a barrage of criticism over their use of expiration dates and other restrictions involving digital rights management. Now, Wikibooks is experimenting with a project that would make many digital texts available free of charge.
With such monumental forces at work, how long will it take for book publishers to radically change the way they do business?
Blog community response:
"As one who works in publishing, what this is really about isn't replacing publishers, but changing how we use our core skill sets. Textbook publishing has always been about providing pedagogical tools. Wikibooks won't replace entirely the pedagogical tool known as a textbook, but they can offer new ways to think about pedagogical tools."
"I teach marketing and e-commerce to undergraduate and graduate students online. Occasionally, a student will cite a Wikipedia article as a reference. (This drives universities crazy--after all, who are these Wikipedia authors, and what are their credentials?) But let's move on, because now textbook publishers can begin wringing their hands over the next Wiki phenomena."
--The eStrategyOne Buzz
"Finally some firepower in the favor of students in the battle ground of textbooks and their prices that rip hundred of dollars per book from the empty pockets of college students."
--The Cranky Consumer
"The problem is, new technology threats to old ways of creating revenue--no matter how small or unlikely--is invariably seen by content owners and developers as serious threat until proven otherwise."