This post, from Joe Wikert, originally appeared on his Publishing 2020 blog on 6/29/09.
The latest issue (July/August) issue of Fast Company magazine features an excellent cover article about Amazon and Jeff Bezos. As I read through it I highlighted a few excerpts and made a number of notes:
Recently, Bezos claimed that Kindle e-books add 35% to a physical book’s sales on Amazon whenever Kindle editions are available. Put another way, for every three print copies of, say, Malcolm Gladwell’s "The Outliers" the site sells, it also sells one Kindle e-book — or about 25% of total sales.
This felt like an overstatement to me…till I sat down and checked the numbers. It’s true, at least for the top several titles I looked at from our O’Reilly list. Quite a few of the books I looked at had Kindle sales that represented anywhere from 20-30% of the total Amazon sales. The key point: If you’re a publisher, you need to get your content into this platform. Authors, if your publishers don’t already have your content available on the Kindle, when will they? As much as I hate the Kindle’s closed nature there’s no arguing with the results. Of course, publishers are also free to sell Kindle content direct to consumers, just like we do at O’Reilly.
Jeff Bezos is trying to do to book publishers what Steve Jobs of Apple did to the music industry. With its iPod and iTunes Store, Apple carved out a largely virgin market so fast that it was able to wrest control of the digital-music distribution system and thus dictate what the record labels could do.
I’ve occasionally been concerned about this but I’m not sure there’s much to fear after all. I’m seeing more and more e-storefronts popping up every week and even though the Kindle is pretty popular it hasn’t been the runaway success the original iPod was. Even the iPhone itself is a worthy competitor to the Kindle. Ironically enough, I think it’s when Amazon fully opens the Kindle platform that we’ll have to worry the most about this. That will probably have to happen at some point, but Amazon doesn’t seem to be in any hurry, so relax…for now.
Should that happen, book publishers would have more to fear than just being squeezed. Amazon could phase them out completely, treating them as the ultimate middlemen orphaned by a new technology.
Forget about Amazon. Any publisher that isn’t already worried about this in general is asleep at the wheel. With all the great self-publishing services out there and the ever-growing importance of social media and author platform it’s crucial for all publishers to determine the value they add to the ecosystem.
In some ways, book publishing operates like one of Joseph Stalin’s five-year plans.
This statement made me laugh out loud. Literally. It’s painful to admit but true that some publishers still try to lay out 3- and 5-year financial plans. This, in an industry where most have had a hard time coming close to their latest annual and even quarterly forecasts. Ugh.
Here’s a doomsday scenario put forth by Richard Curtis, a literary agent and founder of E-Reads, an independent e-book publisher…
The rest of this excerpt would be pretty long, so let me summarize by saying that Mr. Curtis is concerned about Amazon using their BookSurge service to print all the copies they’ll sell. Is that really scary? We’re talking about a more efficient model! If the unit cost (after factoring in the transportation savings) is less than an offset printing of those copies, why wouldn’t the publisher want to do it this way? If anything, it’s a wake up call to the brick-and-mortar stores out there to figure out what value they add to the model. Instant gratification. Check. How about beating Amazon at their own game though and offering print-on-demand of an infinitely long title list at the individual store level?
Read the rest of the post on Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 blog. Also, if you’d like to offer your work in Kindle format but have no idea how to do it, see "IndieAuthor Guide To Publishing For The Kindle™ With Amazon’s Digital Text Platform™ And MS Word™ 2003 Or Higher", written by Publetariat founder April L. Hamilton and offered for free download on her website.