Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yet another Google book (video)

In the best traditions of pack business journalism, there is a flurry of books about the Monster of Mountain View and its inexorable march to Total World Domination. There are four books out already, and at least 2 (perhaps 4) more books are coming out in the next 18 months, peddled to a business book audience today more interested in financial instability than tech growth companies.

The first wave of books came in 2005, with The Search and The Google Story. Leading the next wave was my coworker Randy Stross, with last fall’s Planet Google. Published last week is the latest book, What Would Google Do? in hardback, large print, Kindle and audiobook editions.

The latest book is by Jeff Jarvis, a blogger, Guardian columnist, and full-time journalism professor — also the founder of Entertainment Weekly and former TV critic for TV Guide and People. So if Stross is coming at Google as a veteran analyst of the tech industry (with books on NeXT, Microsoft and venture capital), Jarvis comes from the perspective of a veteran media critic.

This morning, the WSJ, PaidContent and Jarvis himself talked about a new version of the Jarvis book: a 23-minute video lecture. The video, available from Amazon (but not iTunes), is being sold for $10 (although Jarvis has a free sample). As the articles note, it’s an interesting experiment for publishers trying to gain marginal reviews.

However, I don’t get the pricing. Hour-long TV episode are being sold for $5 on iTunes ($6 on Amazon), while Amazon downloads of a two-hour theatrical release (with a $20 million production budget) runs $15.

I also don’t get the market: we tell all our business model students that they need to definite not only how they create value but also for whom they are supposed to create value. About the only audience I can see is professors who want a guest lecturer on Google, and I’m not clear if the $10 includes performance rights to show to a classroom. (Ignoring whether showing in a classroom fits under fair use of scholarship).

Also, instead of paying $10 to watch Prof. Jarvis give a 23 minutetalk from his book, you can watch Prof. Stross do a one-hour talk and Q&A from his book for free. In the case of Prof. Stross, it was not part of some master strategy to maximize publishing revenues, but a last minute decision by a couple of us here at SJSU (with his consent) to tape what we thought would be a talk that would enjoy a wide following.

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