No contest

Good morning bookies! It’s Thursday, time for news and comment.

*** Good grief. Ebay can’t even run a contest right these days. What a mess. You have to wonder if they are screwing up the site on purpose, because if they aren’t, they should be. With page views down, time spent on the site down, the stock way down, even the dunces running the company realized something was wrong, so they had the good idea to do something about it. Fix what they had screwed up?

Well, no.

They decided that what Ebay needed was a contest! That’s right, some good old-fashioned smoke and mirrors. But at least a contest might draw in traffic and drum up some good will, right? Wrong. At least, wrong when you leave it open to automated scripts and wind up angering the very people they were trying to make happy. Like every single change Ebay has made since disruptive destroyer Donahoe took over, this latest debacle has the feeling of haste and waste written all over it.

Ebay screws up their own contest

*** It has long been said that the book publishing industry is recession proof. I’ve never quite understood that logic, in the final analysis books are a commodity in many way, but that has been the common wisdom. At least until now. The big boys of publishing, Random House, Houghton Mifflin, Simon & Schuster, they are all down-sizing, laying off and in general consolidating.

Darwinism in the publishing world?

From this vantage point, however, this might not be all bad. In the end the industry will be forced to change, to take a long, hard look at itself, and that is generally a good thing. What may emerge is a better, more responsive publishing industry. What form this will take is hard to say with certainty, but it’s entirely possible that small publishers will have a new chance to make inroads into the market, something they did not have before. After all, book distributors have to have books to distribute, and if the big houses aren’t supplying them they will have to look elsewhere.

As all bookies who are addicted to this blog know, Ebay is a frequent topic here because your friendly neighborhood bookseller once sold lots and lots of books on Ebay, that is, until they went and screwed up the site and…and…wait, where was I? Oh, that’s right. As everyone knows, Ebay’s declaration of war on sanity has given new startup competitors a chance to make inroads into the marketplace, and in John Donahoe’s wreckage-strewn wake such potentially lethal adversaries as Atomic Mall and Wigix and, my current favorite, Bonanzle.com, have sprung up to challenge the king of the hill. And there is no reason to think something similar cannot happen in any industry, including publishing.

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