We hear a lot about Amazon, the new giant in the playground. But Amazon may actually be the least of the industry’s problems, because they at least play by rules we recognise. There are plenty of other giants out there who are playing entirely different games – but who may still stomp all over our playground. The question is, what do we do about them?
The publishing industry feels under threat from a lot of places these days. And the most commonly mentioned cause of this fear is surely Amazon. Starting off as just another book retailer, Amazon has grown hugely and very cleverly to become a true global giant.
Amazon seems to be the kid everyone’s afraid of – bigger, stronger, and not afraid to use its muscle to get what it wants!
Playing by the rules
However, Amazon is still playing in our playground, basically working with the same rules publishing companies are used to – getting books to customers more effectively and more cheaply than ever before. This is a game that publishers understand and play all the time. And we can see this by the way that publishers and Amazon are always talking about this or that, arguing about a particular situation and coming to new agreements.
The problem, it seems to me, is that Amazon isn’t actually what publishers should be most worried about. We fear Amazon, I think, because we understand it pretty well and so can predict clearly what effect its actions are going to have on us.
A different game
The true danger may not be Amazon but other giants who are playing entirely different games. Companies like Google and Facebook, who use content (including content from publishers) as part of their business but who don’t really care much about that content because their real business is selling advertising.