Another great article about Amazon.com getting into the book publishing business here.
So here you have the world’s biggest online book retailer deciding to publish its own books under the Amazon label.
Let me preface by saying I LOVE Amazon as an author writing for indie publishing houses. They offer a major sales channel for indie publishing, and without them, I would not have achieved a fraction of the success that I have as an author writing for an indie horror publishing house. If the big retailers like Barnes and Noble were a little smarter than they are, they would set up a team of talent scouts to scour indie publishing, identify top-selling titles, get somebody to finance some printing, buy some insurance against the returns, and put them in their stores. But they don’t, so Amazon eats their lunch.
But like any corporation Amazon wants more. So they set up a publishing arm. They typically get 30% of the list price, while small publishers get the rest. Print on demand (POD) printing is very cheap; eBooks are even cheaper. Amazon already has a POD printing arm. So Amazon figures, hey, if we put our own label on the books, we can flood the market with what used to be indie fiction, and instead of getting 30%, we can get 90%.
And since it’s all print on demand and eBook, they can do this without any real risk. All they have to do is buy some big name authors with some big advances to lend credibility to the program, and BANG, they’re making a lot more money than they used to. This has been described as an assault on big publishing, but it isn’t–it’s actually something of a threat to indie publishing that relies on Amazon in a big way for its sales, and that Amazon seemingly would like to replace.
This is obviously great for Amazon, which would presumably increase revenues while gaining extraordinary control over this part of the market. If you’re an author, you get an editor and maybe some promotional favoritism on the Amazon site. If you’re a reader, you get a lot more choices, with the Amazon label providing some assurance that the book meets certain quality standards, injecting a “gatekeeper” into this part of the market.
If you’re an indie publisher, well, it might not be pretty. You would have to compete with your distributor. And your authors might find Amazon a better deal.
If you’re a big publisher, I don’t see what the fuss is about. Amazon is eating your lunch because you refuse to talent scout hot titles in indie publishing. And now Amazon is wooing away some big name authors to lend legitimacy to their new program. Overall, not a big deal. I guess the ultimate threat is that if the Amazon private label brand is perceived as high quality over time, people may seek it out instead of going to bookstores. This could hurt the big publishers but I doubt it would destroy them. People still love going to bookstores and browsing books.
Then I read this article, and things are getting even more interesting. My understanding was the Amazon program was going to be limited to print on demand and eBook publishing, but Amazon is apparently hoping to put at least select titles into bookstores. The article says:
Adding insult to injury, Amazon also hopes to sell the books they publish in the very stores they’ve long treated as obsolete and unnecessary.”
This might be limited, more cosmetics for their program to make their private label sexier than just a brand for a POD/eBook program dressed up as publishing. It might even be an empty gesture to generate a little excitement. “Hopes” doesn’t mean “will,” and it doesn’t mean “will in a big way.”
But it might be a major effort toward distribution for its top-tier titles, in which case Amazon would be partnering with the brick and mortar distribution it once denounced as irrelevant, not to mention its biggest competition, while competing directly with the major publishers for precious bookshelf space. With its deep pockets, Amazon would be very tough competition.
If this were to happen, the effects would be revolutionary. The publishing industry–from indie publishing market to big publishing–would be transformed.
Personally, though, I don’t think they’ll make a big effort to get major brick and mortar distribution. If they did that, they would be jumping into a business model that is much higher-risk, and give a big piece of the revenue away to the retailer. Why bother?
It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think Amazon is going to do that. In fact, any talk about doing it and threatening the big publishers is all part of creating the impression that the Amazon publishing brand is powerful instead of diluted, as I understand they will be publishing up to hundreds of titles per year. No, the real threat is to indie publishing, a growing market in which Amazon takes 30% of the revenues as the primary distributor, and would like to take 90%.