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What Amazon’s New Foray into Publishing Means

Recently on LinkedIn, a publisher posed the question: What can we learn from Amazon’ s foray further into book publishing http://is.gd/Aawt and their attempt to allow bloggers to monetize their blogs by publishing them on Kindle http://is.gd/zOoF ?

To which I responded:

Amazon is in a great position to become a publisher now, situated as they are, upstream from the publishers whose books they’ve been selling at a loss all these years. There’s profit and power in that upstream position, and their losses appear to be turning into a major win for them in capturing the mindshare of today’s readers.

Amazon knows what books are selling, and to whom, and they do not share that customer information with their publishers, or now, with their authors. (Just like they do not share any sales figures for their proprietary Kindle.) They not only know who is reading what, but, through the gifting program, they also know what the reading patterns of a purchaser’s friends and relatives are. So easy to ship using the one click program!

And now with the Kindle, they know not only what is being read, but how people read, how much, how long, in what order. Capturing the bibliometrics of how a blog or newspaper is read, following the thoughtpath of the reader as he reads all of article A, then skips to blog B–they see what is of interest and value to each kindlekiddie. You get the picture.

So, unlike most other publishers on our planet, Amazon can pitch new content they publish directly at potential readers. As publishers, they drastically mitigate their risk of taking on a self-published author by giving all authors access to market when they post their self-published books for sale on Amazon. Statistics, bibliometrics, and in the case of self-published authors, prior success in the marketplace will tell Amazon which authors to publish. Gone the discerning acquisitions editor discovering, nurturing talent or genius, informing his publisher which books ought to be published because they contribute to our society’s understanding of itself.

This new move of Amazon’s into actually publishing books may prove very disruptive indeed to the acquisitions-editorial-production side of the traditional publishing business we know and love, that distinctly human process which has carried forth our recorded culture these last 500 years, in much the same way that on the retailing side, Amazon has contributed to the rapid demise of the independent bookstore through its cut-rate pricing strategies against which terrestrial businesses just can’t compete.

Wipe out the competition, then harvest the mindshare of the bookbuying public. Oh brave new world that has such people in it! And we will really know when we are home in this new digital universe of ours when publishers devise a new business model expanding the traditional reader-pay model to incorporate a reader-paid model, kind of like what Amazon is doing with this blog program of theirs. Not only the luddites hold their books close to their chests.


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