The current New Yorker offers two articles that say a lot about what's happening in the book and movie industries. The always excellent Ken Auletta analyzes the Amazon and Apple-book publishers battle over ebook pricing. Ted Friend's profile of the comic star Ben Stiller provides a wealth of auxiliary information about how it's decided which movies are made and become box-office hits.
Auletta shows how the book publishers hope to preserve the venerable system in which publishers depend upon bookstores to market their books. The e-book system is an entirely different model. The article shows that the Justice Department overreached in suing the book publishers and Apple for colludng in setting ebook prices, and sees Amazon as the monolith seeking to control the entire book operation, from publishing to sales. However, while Amazon's drive for a books monopoly is seen as potentially limiting the varety and quality of books published, Amazon does open the gates to self-publishing, letting writters bypass the traditional dependence upon publishers. The Amazon operation might let thousands of voices speak, or, as is likely, a structure will arise in which quality and popular appeal take precedence.
The conclusion reached by Auletta is an important one: The publishers make up a relatively small cottage industry and the real battle for dominance in among the giants, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook. They are seeking to control the Internet world's "entire equation," as F. Scott Fitzgerald said of his film producer Monroe Stahr, hardware, software, content, products.
Friend's profile of Stiller, one of the Hollywood's diminishing number of bankable stars, shows the movie business in a desperate hunger game of how to attract an increasingly distracted and fragmented audience. Fewer movies are being made and fewer stars emerging as the big profits are made from superhero vehicles and techno-franchises. Young men from 17 to 25 hold the key, with films limited for the rest of us.