You are missing some good fun if you don’t know those AT&T commercials where the grown-up sits around a table with a bunch of really little kids and asks them questions like “what’s better: faster or slower?” There always seems to be an obvious “correct” answer. Those kids could answer some important questions about ebook retailing in the future like these:
“What’s better? Selling just ebooks or selling ebooks and print books?”
“What’s better? Selling in just one country or in all countries?”
“What’s better? Selling just books or selling books and lots of other things too?”
“What’s better? Having one way to get revenue, like selling books with or without other stuff, or having lots of ways to get revenue so that books are only a part of the opportunity?”
And the answers to those simple questions, so obvious that a 5-year old would get them right, explain a lot about the evolving ebook marketplace and, ultimately, about the entire world of book publishing.
Book retailing on the Internet, let alone an offer that is ebooks only, hardly cuts it as a stand-alone business anymore. The three companies most likely to be in the game and selling ebooks ten years from now are Amazon, Apple, and Google. The ebook business will not be material to any of them — it is only really close to material for Amazon now — which is why we can be sure they will see no need to abandon it. It is a strategic component of a larger ecosystem, not dependent on the margin or profit it itself produces. And the rest of their substantial businesses assure they’ll still be around as a company to run that ebook business.