Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Who Will Become Amazon's Next Victim?

In a world where everything is changing so rapidly, the publishing industry has been trying its best to stay the same. They were slow in realizing the impact e-books would have on the market, and even after Amazon showed how easy it is for authors to reach the public without the benefit of a traditional publisher, and how profitable it can potentially be, they are still reluctant to change. Low royalty rates are still the norm, as are the long delays between manuscript acceptance to publication. But as long as there was no real competition, they were content to let things ride. Will they continue to be content now that Amazon has thrown its hat into the ring and now is offering authors better deals than they were receiving with their current publishers to publish under their own imprints? Is this the shake-up the industry needs?

Over at Crime Fiction Collective, Andrew E. Kaufman, best-selling author of While the Savage Sleeps, weighed in on this very issue, and he was kind enough to allow me to re-post his entry here.

It’s been all over the news the past week—this fall, Amazon will publish 122 books in a number of different genres through their own imprint, and reports say this is just the beginning. According to industry insiders, they’ve been aggressively courting some of their top authors, and just last week the company announced they’ll publish actress/director Penny Marshall’s new memoir.

Amazon has already shown authors they no longer need an agent or a big-name publishing company to get their books into readers' hands, thanks to their groundbreaking self-publishing model. However, this next move seems push the notion up a notch and has many wondering if traditional publishers will soon find themselves on the same boat as bookstores did after Amazon singlehandedly brought them to their knees.

Word from industry insiders is that publishers aren't just wondering about that prospect-- they're plenty worried about it, too, and rightly so. There’s history to consider. Amazon revolutionized how we read with their Kindle, and if this publishing endeavor succeeds, they just may influence what we read as well.

Will Amazon one day put publishers out of business? Several years ago, that might have been a preposterous question, but today more than a few feel it's a distinct possibility. The publishing industry hasn’t exactly shown much tenacity when it comes to keeping up with Amazon’s fast-moving forward-thinking business acumen, one that has placed them far ahead of the pack. And in an industry that as of late seems to be reinventing itself practically by the minute, not keeping up could mean falling by the wayside. Historically, we’ve seen this happen repeatedly--will we see it again here?

Amazon has already proven itself as a force to be reckoned with on the technological front as well after its Kindle survived the great iPad invasion. Now they’re raising the stakes by aggressively going after the market share with their new Fire, a smaller, lighter, and most importantly, cheaper tablet that could give Apple a run for their money. But more than just a media device, the Fire may also help push Amazon into the role as publishing giant. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has referred to the device as an "end-to-end service," which can only be interpreted as something that will keep them in the loop every step of the way, from the product's inception to its final destination: the customers' hands.

Of course, opinions vary on the subject, and this is just mine. But what about you? Do you think publishers will become a thing of the past? And if Amazon does manage dominate the book biz on every level, what do you think the implications of that might be?