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At Digital Book World, book industry research firm Codex Group has some news for you that will completely shock and surprise you: in a survey of just over 2,000 people who buy e-books, 86% buy them from only one retailer. Those who buy books from Amazon tend to keep buying them from Amazon, etc.

Oh, wait. Maybe that won’t shock and surprise you after all. Maybe it’s completely what you expected given that most major e-book vendors have erected walled gardens around their content to keep you from taking it out to another garden. If you buy books from Amazon, you have a strong incentive to keep buying them from Amazon, because you can’t read your library on anything else. (Unless you know the secret.) After a while, you just get used to it. This is why Baen made substantial changes to its own e-book program in order to get its books into Amazon’s store—most Amazon customers are so conditioned to it that they don’t want to step outside their garden even if they can.

But the really weird thing about this article is that it mentions the “walled garden” nature of these stores without once ever touching on the true cause. It mentions walls or walled gardens at least twice, but these are the conclusions it draws:

1. The big ebook retailers that have created fairly seamless reading, buying and storing experiences have loyal customers who will continue to buy ebooks from them. So, these retailers probably don’t have to do all that much to keep these customers save for continue to do what they’ve been doing.

2. The smaller ebook retailers have an uphill battle to fight when it comes to not only attracting new readers but keeping old ones. And their biggest foe in that fight is Amazon, which is the most successful ebook retailer when it comes to luring rivals’ customers — likely through price promotions, exclusive content and ubiquity.

Wait, what? “Seamless” experiences? “Loyal customers”? “Price promotions, exclusive content and ubiquity”?

There’s not one word about digital rights management that keeps readers from moving their purchases to another hardware platform. Why would people forego their main e-book vendor if they lose everything they bought when they switch? What does DBW think those “walls” are built out of, papier-mâché?

It’s pretty obvious, and even publishing-industry insiders are starting to realize, that publishers’ insistence on DRM is what handed Amazon the keys to the kingdom. Some publishers, like Baen, have never used DRM. Others, like Tor, have started dropping it. But until the majority of publishers get rid of the stuff, Amazon gets a free pass on keeping its customers locked up in its garden—at least the ones who don’t know about Calibre and Apprentice Alf.

 
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