Isn’t it curious that the most profitable aspect of the publishing business is also the hardest to control? Backlist, especially those lovely older titles with lower associated costs, prop up the houses — much like the catalog of motion picture studios. It is this evergreen product that keeps the lights burning and air conditioning cooling.
For years now, the smarter studios have been digitizing their backlist. This is an expensive — extremely expensive — and time-consuming process. Yet the industry has been moving toward digital with grim determination. They don’t like the free-wheelin’ ways of the Internet, but the lure of digital distribution, satellites and fast wires and sometimes no wires at all, is irresistible. Even now, as they step warily into new media markets via services like CinemaNow and Movielink, and even now, as the dollars are relatively small compared to the initial investment, they worry about piracy.