Is Amazon Taking Over the Book Business?
“In terms of market share, Amazon is Coke and there isn’t yet a Pepsi.”
That is a quote from Jeff Bezos, as recorded by the This is My Next blog during the event where Bezos made some big announcements about the latest and greatest from Amazon.
Earlier this week, before the big announcements, CNN.com wondered about the tight grip Amazon has on the entire book publishing chain, noting that the company’s “tentacles reach into all parts of the industry.” It is true that being able to order books from Amazon has damaged brick-and-mortar bookstores, that “Amazon quietly launched its own book imprint in 2009,” and that by now letting authors sign with them directly, Amazon is cutting out publishers. But the article’s title may be a little limited. At the end it notes “Amazon’s stealth moves” are such that it is really aiming far beyond books because it wants to be an entertainment giant; it’s damaging the book business in its ascent.
During Wednesday’s press event, Bezos dazzled the audience (at least that is how it seemed from my computer). He seemed to be promising a Kindle in every pot. You now have a choice between a Kindle for $79, a Kindle Touch for $99, a Kindle Touch 3G for $149 or you can make the leap to the Kindle Fire tablet for $199 (which is less than the $250 price point that was widely predicted).
Publishers Weekly’s PWxyz blog highlighted a new Kindle feature that some more tech-oriented blogs did not: users will be able to look up historical references and “real characters” because Amazon has “pre-calculated all of the interesting phrases” in a book.
So not only is Amazon going to have its hand in every aspect of book publishing from acquisitions to distribution, it has also pre-calculated what users will find most interesting. While this seems like a convenience, it makes one wonder how much influence Amazon will have over the reading experience.
Of course, you could say that before Amazon appeared on the scene, publishers were already doing this and there will always be gatekeepers.
I remember hearing radio ads for Amazon as a kid who loved books and being intrigued. That was when Amazon was an upstart. Now, as Bezos suggests, it is working towards being a monopoly. While I find monopolies to be dangerous, I don’t know that any one company can really dominate everything. The days of major publishers dominating are numbered; one day Amazon may find itself working to hold onto customers in the face of a number of “Pepsis.”
Are you excited about the new Kindles? Do you worry that Amazon is taking over the book business?
Reminisce over the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail” where romance blooms between the owner of an independent bookstore and the owner of a mega-bookstore that is putting the indie out of business.
Memorable line: “I have met Joe Fox, who owns Foxbooks, and I have heard him compare his store to a Price Club and the books in it to cans of olive oil.”