Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal [David Streitfeld, The New York Times]
Yes, This is About Publishing
As a disrupter, Amazon wants to shift the way people purchase and consume things. Books have always been high on their agenda. In some respects, in fact, it has taken longer to get there than Amazon expected. We’ve been talking about Amazon’s goals here since the mid-90s. If anything, they have been exceptionally patient (as have their investors).
Over the years, they’ve built an end-to-end infrastructure and platform. They know how to fill the channel. They’ll fill it with books, software and the devices to get (and keep) you there. As part of their keeping-the-channel-full strategy, they think it makes sense to go the last mile. They’ll start with the author-as-entrepreneur. One assumes they will eventually get some very big names, with extensive back catalogs, to sign on. Their hope is that the rest will follow.
This is the sound of the next shoe dropping. It comes just as I was getting excited about more publishing options for authors, not fewer.
But there is at least one competitor that can outflank Amazon. Update: Maybe too much so.
In the iPad, Apple has a great general purpose Post-PC that also happens to be a reading device. Competing on this level is not Amazon’s forte nor, I would venture, a core goal of its device strategy. Apple, meanwhile, seems to have an interest in keeping the publishing market (or at least the App Store) vital and competitive. Like Amazon, they increasingly sell an ecosystem.
This ultimately means that Apple
must will take steps to ensure that Amazon does not become dominant in areas where their interests overlap. This is where we have historically seen Apple make alliances with other industry players. I expect that to play out again, although many in the industry worry that Apple already has too much power and would very much like to see Amazon become a countervailing force. I lean that way myself.
At the moment, it’s still a game of big ships, maneuvering into position, cannons at the ready. Not just these two giants. The entire publishing industry is on the water here, guns in various states of readiness. I’m keeping my options open. Which, for the moment, I can.