Amazon Kindle Trainwreck Ahead

Amazon Sells Over 3 Million eBooks In One Week

Kindle is a runaway train heading for Manhattan, and as it roars through Penn Station and under the city, it is shaking the foundations of New York’s oldest trade publishers. Increasing eBook sales mean increasing cost per unit for print books, since fixed production costs will be amortized over fewer print unit sales. Trade publishers are struggling to exercise pricing power in an environment that demands cheap eBooks, and where the temptation of underselling competitors on all but the biggest brand-name authors is ever present.

I think it’s clear that wherever the Kindle train is heading, Amazon is driving, and the big trade publishers have little choice at this point other than buying a first class ticket and making up to the engineer. At some point, perhaps in just another year or two, Kindle may represent a large enough percentage of trade sales that even name authors will be better off jumping ship and taking their own seat on the Kindle train. Yes, some authors will stick with the trades in return for fawning attention over their delicate genius, but writing for most authors is a business. When Amazon Kindle represents a better business opportunity than greater paper sales at a lower royalty, Amazon will take the prize.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

I don’t like the idea of the most powerful company selling ebooks having a stranglehold on what people can read. Do you?

Nature hates monopolies. Nature never gives one thing all of the power. Only human beings are stupid enough to do that.

At some point, this train is going to jump the tracks and hurt everyone.

6 Comments

Filed under Amazon Kindle, Digital Overthrow, eBooks: General

6 responses to “Amazon Kindle Trainwreck Ahead

  1. So what’s the call to action here? What should authors, publishers, etc. be doing?

  2. If the authors to whom the writer refers choose to give their souls to Amazon, it’s a little narrow-minded to blame Amazon. Well, okay, Amazon is the dealer offering the “you’ll make more money letting us handle it” crack, but it’s still a choice.

    The digital revolution in publishing has been fermenting in the basement for more than a decade. Instead of considering its possibilities, the mainstream industry and many of its authors chose instead to sneer at those who did. It’s hard to work up sympathy for an industry that accused honest, hardworking people of being scam artists and crooks for no reason other than that they chose to challenge the status quo.

    Nevertheless, I have no desire to see Amazon or any other single entity, as good as they’ve been for small presses who would otherwise never have had a sales channel, consume yet another industry. They’re no more inclined to do people favors than are the mega-conglomerates that now own mainstream publishing.

    That’s what the name authors who are flocking there to put up their backlist seem to be either overlooking or deliberately ignoring. Amazon is all about control, and anyone dealing with them needs to be prepared to keep a sharp eye on them at all times.

    And read all of that agreement before signing it.

  3. jmurphy

    “Increasing eBook sales mean increasing cost per unit for print books, since fixed production costs will be amortized over fewer print unit sales”

    Huh? Publishers might want to look at *total* costs amortized over *total* sales.

    • mikecane

      Statements are sent to writers based on their *book*, not the overall sales of the publisher. So he’s correct in how the costs are calculated.

      • jmurphy

        ok, try: total cost per book (e and dt) amortized over total sales per book (e and dt).

        The original post says that each *ebook* sale increases *print* costs. I’m saying that’s ridiculous. Use the e- sales to subsidize the dt sales.

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