By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
February 21, 2011

Publishers reach for new metaphors to describe what Steve Jobs just did to them

It’s not easy to explain to customers who like the sound of Apple’s (AAPL) new subscription plan — from one-click purchases to protection from junk mail — why it’s a deal breaker for publishers.

So they’ve turned to the most powerful weapon in their literary arsenal — the metaphor. A sample from Monday’s news stories:

  • “Traditional print publishers have spent the past few years cast in the role of the nice old-fashioned girl in high school who was ignored while more recent arrivals got all the attention.” — David Carr, the New York Times
  • “They’re the beautiful girlfriend you had in high school who was a bitch for no apparent reason,” grumbled one publishing executive. — Lucia Moses, MediaWeek
  • Richard Jones, the co-founder of, put it more bluntly: “Apple just ____ over online music subs for the iPhone.” — Josh Halliday, the Guardian

For more substantive analysis of the publisher’s predicament, see Frédéric Filloux’s Monday Note.

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