A is for Amazon
There's no getting around it. Amazon is the biggest retailer for independent publishers. Amazon is pretty much it. This is both pretty exciting, because how great it is to have direct access to potential readers, and pretty unnerving, because who likes to deal with what could become a monopolistic player in a very short time.
We are cautiously optimistic because we choose to be—knowing full well that we have no idea what's going to happen in the publishing industry. For now, Amazon has broken open the floodgates of possibility for independent publishing.
What makes it work for them?
- They are indie publisher-friendly. After decades of media company consolidation, with the ability to publish limited to only large companies with millions of dollars to invest just to get started, the game has changed. Today, there is effectively no barrier to entry for publishers. Some see this as a bad thing. We view it as a good thing. Why should starting a publishing company be a venture limited to the rich? That's not how publishing started centuries ago.
- They are author-friendly. In their own limited way (because let's face it, Amazon.com is not a pretty site), they provide a way for authors to build a presence, publish themselves (see #1), and get backlog titles back into print.
- They provide a great e-commerce experience. From recommendations to permanent shopping carts to a very forgiving checkout experience, Amazon is winning because it's incredibly easy to shop there.
- They are serving a previously unmet demand by readers. There's plenty of excellent analysis on this subject out there.
- Kindle. Even though in electronic gadget terms, the Kindle is a sluggish, unusable device, it's good enough. It satisfices the reader by providing a lightweight, slim container that can present cleanly the books the reader wants to read. Given Amazon's dominance in the market already, perhaps it's no surprise that the Kindle is the king of e-readers. But the Paperwhite is a pretty good reader.
- Practices of traditional publishers. They are making it an easy choice for authors to look elsewhere. This may change as companies try to adapt, but many of them are simply divisions of multinationals who are interested only in growth of quarterly profits. Publishing requires a longer vision. The traditional publishers embraced that once. A few still do.
Maybe next year we'll do another A is for Amazon post and see if we really were April fools.