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Organizational Fields and the Book Industry


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Organizational disruption in the publishing industry from a sociology of organizations and networks perspective. Firebrand Community Conference, 2010.

Organizational disruption in the publishing industry from a sociology of organizations and networks perspective. Firebrand Community Conference, 2010.

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  • 1. peter brantley internet archive san francisco ca
  • 2. concept of an “organizational field” (defined) often complex groups or sets of actors involved.
  • 3. stable industry indicates stable network for both organizations and people
  • 4. Disruption in core aspects: production, means, distribution of goods/services – creates conflicts
  • 5. good example: digital rights for backlist titles rights to the latent rents were never arbitrated
  • 6. confusing enough issue to be a major component of GBS proposal (“Author-Publisher Procedures”)
  • 7. authors X agents X publishers roles suddenly become vague, technology makes apparent buried conflicts in contracts
  • 8. outcome: rosetta, wylie v. random house well what is interesting ... ? books enter digital market.
  • 9. the present condition of the book industry: a new threshold, for industry-wide no dominant paradigm for product
  • 10. the automotive industry: imagine planes vs. cars (what if planes offered personal commuting alternative – wow!) ebook characterization is happening in shadow of historical print pattern
  • 11. the efforts to build a new market stasis- determine the primary “axis of competition”: product | pricing | services
  • 12. deep technology shifts usually remove the ability to focus on a single axis
  • 13. digital (creation, distribution) have {many} {new} implications for ubiquity and control of products, services
  • 14. fields that have become disrupted are naturally subject to the formation of new emergent biases in conduct. (there is no existing practice)
  • 15. any newly introduced stresses produce unexpected outcomes evolving by positive feedbacks, counters are weak.
  • 16. such as a tendency for progressive furthering of emerging monopolies
  • 17. international rights will force new emergent practices uncertainties are easily introduced for digital books vs. print products
  • 18. National historical book price fixing laws subject to stress from international firms because digital stresses different vectors
  • 19. tensions exacerbated by complexities international vs national legal regime – changes in law difficult to negotiate something could emerge in EU or GATT / WTO context
  • 20. strikingly uncertain right now in an international context: who will sell what to whom for what
  • 21. this does not even touch on definition of redistribution or secondary markets national or international in context!
  • 22. e.g. consider digital first sale! an issue common to software (shrink wrap licensing) less an issue for music, movies in the past (although might change)
  • 23. or LENDING ... not as straightforward as buying a digital copy and putting it on shelf
  • 24. digital lending requires a new coordinated technology infrastructure with access-based accounting systems quite different than traditional lending
  • 25. and ... publisher recalcitrance to provide lending inventory to libraries due to perceived loss of a new revenue opportunity
  • 26. might force establishment of new large library consortia acting as their own platform services providers – many outcomes might emerge.
  • 27. “Hold Hands”, wickenden, Flickr
  • 28. in organizational fields like publishing that have had a long period of stability implicit rules formed to govern action
  • 29. typically bluffs are not called and brinksmanship is avoided (consider wylie v random house– agent and publisher work it out)
  • 30. one can see this in technology: patents are usually cross licensed - not worth divisive shoot_foot_self
  • 31. lawsuits typically signal a breakdown in normative practices within an organizational field
  • 32. the core publishing industry dependencies established a rich set of interactions: author / agent / publisher / selling-agent
  • 33. as historical patterns erode the early stage survivors of market disruption to rebuild using existing networks (e.g., R_Nash’s Cursor Books)
  • 34. author / agent / publisher / selling-agent increasingly subject not to redefinition but re-articulation Not “what is a publisher” Now “what is publishing”
  • 35. as industry, publishing is lucky it has laid claim to an obvious higher-goal: disseminating information
  • 36. this reference point acts to reduce friction, mitigating damage from rent seeking
  • 37. networks alter dramatically when powerful new entrants impact a disrupted organizational field – 1) technologies have changed, and 2) new domains have entered field
  • 38. that would be Silicon Valley:  Apple  Google  Amazon
  • 39. New entrants are not bound by any extant dependencies. Network “damage” occurs when new org field actors first interact.
  • 40. Odds of engendering wholly unexpected consequences is dramatically multiplied. New actors predominately occupy distinct organizational networks, in different fields
  • 41. It is this “asteroid from outer space” characteristic that makes the industry raw and exposed for the first time in decades
  • 42. out of field (technology) disruption demands engagement with different industrial sectors, for radical change.
  • 43. transmedia and web based delivery are examples where new entrants better able to produce, distribute
  • 44. trying to mold oneself like plastic sheet wrap around disrupting agents (Absorb the Mongols!) is not a strategy for long term survival
  • 45. Google's entrance into vending books (as opposed to mining them for data) is only part of a larger product portfolio to convenience its existing partners and to place pressure on valley competitors.
  • 46. on the bright side ... we have stunning new range of opportunities to build new services
  • 47. peter brantley co-founder, open books alliance director, bookserver project internet archive the presidio, san francisco, ca @naypinya (twitter)