This is a guest post by Nisar Ahmad, a digital marketing expert for Media Hicon. As you know, I put most of the blame for the current condition of the publishing world on traditional publishers, whose policies Amazon has cleverly used to its advantage. Nisar instead makes the case for the view that several Amazon policies aim at conquering the world of publishing – and more. I hope you enjoy reading this counterposition to my own.
How Amazon Plans to Conquer the World of Publishing
Deny Data to Suppliers
The information that Amazon gathers from across its platform gives it influence over its book providers. However, by refusing to share that data with the very people who generate it, Amazon gains an unfavorable lead over any potential competitor—a lead so overwhelming that, save for government intercession, there is little chance of significant rivalry from anybody, regardless of whether they be publishers, distributors, or book shops.
Focus on Advertising Services
Amazon offers two different kinds of services to writers, distributors, and book shops. The first service is access to its online book shop. However, it also makes it almost impossible to sell on its platform unless you are also willing to spend your advertising budget on Amazon. This shifts the focus from content creation to advertising – a process all writers know too well.
Amazon Distributor Agreements
Amazon forces various arrangements on its sellers. The aim seems to be threefold, as Amazon expects distributors :
- To offer it comparable or better monetary terms and conditions as those offered to any competing wholesalers.
- Inform Amazon about the terms offered to its competitors.
- Limit the distributors’ price-setting options so that Amazon offers its shoppers the best prices.
Amazon Uses Loss-Making Pricing to Harm Competition
For more than twenty years, Amazon has used books as a guinea pig to bait buyers to its site, gather information, and capture an expanding piece of the overall industry. Regardless of everything else that has happened in the bookselling world, Amazon has captured the online book market by selling books at lower-than-cost prices to advance and sell its Kindle.
The fact that Amazon holds an outsized portion of the U.S. market enables it to meddle in the free progression of data, thoughts, and writing. The American book distributing industry is – and consistently has been – necessary to democracy and Western values. Writers, distributors, and book shops have added to popular discourse. It is expected that a lot more will arise and flourish to the advantage of the general population. However, Amazon can now prevent that from happening.
Having said that, Amazon is also the one who opened up the book market to any writers who couldn’t get published by traditional publishers. In that sense, Amazon has also been a force for democracy by giving Indie authors an outlet and dispensing by traditional gatekeepers.
Success – at a Price
Amazon is the most popular eCommerce site. It sells a mind-boggling range of products, from books to a Digital Pressure Cooker. However, its success also gives it the ability to set the rules.
What if Amazon chooses to pay writers simply by the page? Or that readers never actually own the books they have bought; they simply rent it for as long as they possess a Kindle device? With Amazon ruling the eCommerce world, innovations like these could soon become the new norm, strengthening its stranglehold on the economy and letting it set the rules for everyone.
I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve said it before, Bezos has way too much power, to a potentially dangerous point.
I like the unprecedented freedom he’s given us writers. But I’d like a more balanced market, even if that means more work for us.
Well, the Zon does seem to butter our bread but it sometimes may be the cheap and unhealthy spread. They may still be a target of the antitrust officials in one nation or another.
Indeed. I think that’s the point here; that the state may need to intervene at some point.
A monopoly of any kind is rarely beneficial, there are exceptions but publishing and bookselling aren’t one of those exceptions.
Agreed! Oligopoly isn’t much fun, either…
I totally agree with this view. I think Amazon intends to destroy the competition and when it does it will be paying us what it likes which will be comparable with trad prices: a couple of cents per book sold. Audible is already double dipping with audiobooks, they sell, encourage readers to ‘exchange’ or ‘return’ at which point they claw the money back from authors. In tests where authors rang to return books, Audible customer service denied that they took the money from authors … I think their view is that the customer is at the centre, but the customer isn’t too fussy so they get books written cheaply in third world countries or they simply squeeze authors. It’s why I will never go into KU, because if they’re going to whup my arse, I’d rather not help them build the whip. 🙂
Sorry missed a bit. I should add, audible denied they took money from the authors when talking to customers but were perfectly up front to authors that if a book was returned they took back the money … for over a year. They are still doing it, although they officially only claw back royalties for books returned within seven days since January 1, but there are still authors with minus numbers on their sales charts which is the only way we know there are returns – they are not officially reported.
I understand what you’re saying, Mary. The alternative, of course, is to go back to trad publishing; the people who are already whipping authors and have helped shape the whipping industry!