The first day of Digital Book World 2016 got off to a ostrichian start on Tuesday morning with a presentation by Jon Taplin, director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC.
Professor Taplin was the founder of one of the early streaming video startups, Intertainer, but for the past decade he has been a media studies professor at the University of Southern California. In spite of his experience with tech startups, Taplin is more influenced by his years in the movie industry and is very much of the “old Hollywood” or “old” publishing school.
His presentation was the usual litany of gripes that the legacy industries make about tech companies. Taplin says they’re all run by the “Paypal mafia”, and cites the radical libertarian Peter Thiel as an example, who according to Taplin operates under a “who’s going to stop me” model.
Taplin goes on to say that Bezos put indie bookstores out of business through Amazon’s internet tax advantage (um, no), and that tech companies are to blame for newspapers declining revenue as well as musicians declining income. While there’s some truth to the latter (it’s complicated) Taplin is really blaming tech companies for the music industry and news industry failing to adapt with the times.
Taplin really hates tech and internet companies, even more so than Robert Levine. For example, where Levine took a swipe at Kin Dotcom’s weight, Taplin took a lazy path and called the Megaupload founder an “asshole”.
As he sees it, Google, Facebook, and Amazon captured $50 billion that rightfully belonged to the content companies. He said that Youtube accounted for half of streaming, but only 11% of revenue to music companies, and that Facebook accounts for 75% of mobile social ads.
He wants antitrust action against Facebook and Google for their monopolies, even though they’re not breaking laws.
Taplin also says Amazon is a monopsonist, one that wants to force prices down. He think Amazon is so powerful that it got the DoJ to investigate the Price Fix Six for their conspiracy to raise and fix ebook prices. (I wonder how he squares that belief with all the judges who concluded that Apple broke the law.)
In conclusion, Taplin got up on stage and told the assembled publishers that the scary changing world is the fault of the evil tech companies, and that they should cry to the government for protection.
What a waste of a conference session.
P.S. If you want to read more about Taplin, last week Teleread published a Q&A.
image by tropical.pete