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May 3, 2012
Amazon is Nobody's Darling Right Now
Consensus seems to be that the willingness of at least some publishers to settle the DOJ lawsuit
rather than fight will put Amazon back in the catbird seat. Lots of people are reacting to that; herewith two that came across my screen today.
First, Target isn't going to sell Kindles anymore. The problem isn't the Kindle per se. It's that Amazon has been using physical retailers as its (unpaid) showrooms. Amazon has encouraged people to go shop in physical stores, then price-compare and buy from Amazon - even offering a discount for doing so. That may be a few bucks in consumers' pockets, but it's a big hit to the brick-and-mortar retailers who are losing customers right out of their showrooms.
Target is still a small fraction of Kindle sales, even though it's the biggest non-Amazon seller. So this mostly amounts to a symbolic middle finger to Amazon, since Target will continue to carry iPad and Nook devices. It's worth noting that both Apple and B&N have large physical presences and as such are much more careful about how the online and retail shopping experiences merge.
Second, Mark Glaser of PBS's Mediashift pointed me to a column by Barbara E. Hernandez titled "Can E-Books Succeed Without Amazon?" The heart of the issue seems to be Amazon's KDP Select program, about which I wrote in March. As I intimated then, the program is a hammerlock on an author and buying into it might not be the brightest move for any aspiring writer.
Hernandez paints a picture of Amazon as "heavy-handed" and notes that many authors are opting for smaller publishers who offer more freedom and leave the authors more in control, such as Bookbaby and Smashwords. Harkening back to the first story, Hernandez quotes Smashwords founder Mark Coker as saying
KDP Select [is] using self-published authors as pawns [in] a broader campaign to wage war against retail competitors
That's another bad move on Amazon's part, but they're still the 500 lb gorilla in the room. Authors ignore them at some risk. Let's just hope the gorilla decides to be better-behaved.
(full disclosure: a couple of my author friends have chosen to go with Smashwords, but I have no incentive to promote that alternative. As noted, I don't even own an e-reader yet.)
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