Amazon, the largest marketplace in the world, is prepared to grow some more in 2013. Somehow I don’t think this is a huge surprise, for those who have been paying attention at all. It is interesting to note, though, that Amazon hasn’t even been around for ten years, and has become so huge that the number of its employees rival those working for Microsoft. See what other plans are up, at Amazon Genius!
This extreme growth will be at least partially fueled by the fact that customers are rapidly growing to prefer the online shopping experience to brick and mortar shopping, and people even prefer Amazon over eBay, Overstock and Newegg. More of this story at Amazon Genius, again.
Is part of the reason for Amazon’s overwhelming success attributable to the ease of finding popular e-books? David Gaughran thinks so in his blog, Let’s Get Digital. He thinks Amazon wins in the ebook category, at least, because there’s not a huge, built-in bias over already-published and popular authors.
“While Amazon hasn’t done away with “virtual co-op” completely, the vast majority of slots where books are recommended to customers are open to any book, author, or publisher – if they perform well enough.”
And this is the key to winning the ebook platform for writers: lots of recommendations and (paid) downloads. Free downloads only count in the ranking system as one-tenth of the value of a paid download. David discusses the entire concept in depth at his blog.
Last week independent bookstores filed suit against Amazon and the Big Six publishing houses. The problem? Digital Rights Management for ebooks that keeps them from being shared on any e-reader device. Independent book stores are kept from selling e-books, and device owners who wish to read a book must purchase these e-books from their device’s providers.
As an independent writer, I have the choice every time I send up an ebook to Amazon (my only publishing platform for now) whether or not to enable Digital Rights Management. I always choose not to enable DRM, simply because I don’t want to make my readers angry. I do happen to believe, though, that once I have sold a copy of my book, it should belong to the buyer, not to me, and certainly not to Amazon or the manufacturer of any reading device. As long as the contents can’t be altered any more than they could be on a printed copy of the book (which is, of course, not at all), I think the buyer should be able to share his copy (singular) with whomever he wishes. I do not think e-book buyers should be able to make unlimited copies and pass them around to everyone. But just as they could hand over a printed copy of my book, they should also be able to share an electronic version. DRM has not, in my opinion advanced to the point where it allows purchasers of my books to treat them like physical books, and until it does, I’ll skip that part and be glad someone wants to read them! (Note: Amazon already allows writers who publish on the KDP Select platform to share copies of their books, but these shares are only allowed within the Amazon, and thus Kindle, platform.)
The key with publishing, of course, is not only NOT to anger the readers, but to get people interested enough to want to buy – and share - my books! That’s the true challenge in ebook publishing – rising above the huge pool of new publications which are flooding the market in some cases not because the authors have something important to say, but just because there are practically no barriers to entry! Still, I don’t want someone else deciding which books are good enough for download – let the marketplace speak!
And finally, in an attempt to blame every bad thing in the world on our favorite retailer, Waterstone’s CEO James Daunt says that skyrocketing unemployment in the U.K. is Amazon’s fault as well. He reasons that Amazon is receiving huge tax breaks to expand in the U.K. and that the low-paying warehouse jobs do little to make up for the retail jobs lost as Amazon takes over the publishing and retail sales platforms that are being lost as a result.
My opinion is that, while not every advance in technology is a great thing, technology will advance, whether we like it or not, and the financial, economic and employment landscape will change with it. Best to adapt, learn and bend it toward our own eventual use than it is to try (futilely) to hold back innovation by sticking our fingers in the virtual dike. Things may not always change as we’d like,and in fact I can pretty much guarantee that some changes are going to be uncomfortable, but change they will. The original interview with Mr. Daunt is only available for registered users, and I didn’t want to register, but you can read a good synopsis of the story at Good E-Reader.com.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments whether you think Amazon is harming the already-poor employment situation by providing low-paying jobs here in the U.S. and causing higher-paid jobs to be eliminated.