Amazon Under Siege

Everyone in the book publishing world is still living as if it was two or three years ago, with Amazon having an iron grip on eBooks.

It’s time for all of you to update your perspective. Let me help you with that.

We now live in a world where the Kindle is a minority device compared to the population of other devices — cellphones and tablets. There are several hundred million devices now that can read eBooks. And Kindle format is just one choice.

Stop and let that sink in for a moment.

We have moved from a world where “Kindle = eBook” to Kindle format is just one choice. It’s an option.

I think that’s exactly how Jeff Bezos now sees the world. And it scares him.

The Kindle Fire was not an evolutionary step for Amazon. Had the iPad never appeared, would we have ever had the Kindle Fire?

As hard as it might be to do, imagine the world prior to the iPad.

There were no tablets before it.

There was only the iPhone.

No one made the conceptual leap to take the Android OS and make it into a tablet. It remained on smartphones.

It took Apple to do the iPad for everyone else to think there was a market (which, increasingly, is an iPad market, not a tablet market).

Now on all those tablets and all those cellphones — again, whose population is exponentially larger than the eInk Kindle population — are people locked into any one eBook format?

No.

They can read PDF. They can read ePub. They can read Kindle. They can read iBooks. They can read whatever other format exists or might be created.

Kindle is reduced to an option, to a choice, to an app.

Kindle has no dominance in that world.

It might seem to, because of existing Kindle owners.

It might seem to, because people who hated eInk are finally buying Kindle books.

It might seem to, because your worldview is stuck in the past.

Any publisher is free to validate this new reality very easily.

1) Call up one of your popular writers

2) Contract him/her to do a short book as a commission

3) Give that book away free exclusively as an ePub-only file for three months

4) Then give it away as a Kindle book for three months

At the end of that, you’ll see which had the most downloads: ePub or Kindle?

I would bet on ePub.

Because it no longer matters in the larger population of devices what format an eBook is in.

This would be the kind of Big Six collusion I’d be in favor of: Each of you pony up a some bucks to hire a megastar author for that commission fee which one of you will publish. Make this a huge press event, with plenty of news coverage so the word spreads. Hell, even frame it as an anti-Amazon move, to guarantee press coverage.

Then share the results of the test among all of you.

It’d be cheaper and more worthwhile than paying the current boneheads who do your fail-filled consulting and all those damn book conferences you waste time with!

The Kindle Fire was not the next step in the Kindle’s evolution. It was an act of desperation by Bezos to stem the inevitable erosion.

Further proof of Bezos running scared is the KDP Select program where writers are locked into Amazon for Kindle book lending. If that doesn’t reek of fear, I don’t know what does.

Amazon is no longer as strong as all of you think.

Now, Big Six, it’s time for you to prove it to yourselves.

And you had better move fast on this. Because if the Agency Model falls and Amazon is again free to price everything at $9.99 — or even below — Bezos will be able to manipulate all of you into thinking Kindle dominates when it’s actually only the price that does.

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10 Comments

Filed under Amazon Kindle

10 responses to “Amazon Under Siege

  1. So what made you change your mind about Amazon? https://mikecanex.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/platforms-win-products-lose/

    Is it just that they don’t seem to have taken any action to develop eBooks as a platform as you described in that post, or is it something else?

    • mikecane

      Sometimes what I say is trumped by reality — as Sony itself saw. Yeah, Betamax was better, but VHS won. Yeah, Amazon’s platform features are compelling, but in the wider universe of devices do people really care? And if they do, Amazon — and the rest — will be sure to add them to their *apps*.

      Also, you forget, the smaller iPad is still rumored to be coming. DigiTimes had another post about it today. I just haven’t had the energy to do my own possible post about it too. Really, who would want to buy a KFire, KVox, or NookC/T after it appears?

  2. Two data points here that tangentially relate to your premise. Both surrounding the use of tablets for reading long-form content.

    First, there’s an active Goodreads poll (yes, unscientific, and a selective participant base slanted towards more serious readers) that asks people who own both a tablet and an eInk-based ereader, which they prefer to read on. 82% say the ereader.

    Second, Michael Tamblyn said in a recent presentation that tablet users are, at best, casual readers. They see an average of one book every other month finished by Kobo app users. Ereader stats are much higher.

    So, yes, there’s an order of magnitude more tablets in users hands than ereaders, but they seem to have significantly less impact (per unit) on the book industry than ereaders. You could, with justification, say every five tablets sold has the same book industry impact as a single ereader.

    • mikecane

      And yet didn’t all three release *tablets*? Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and, oh yeah, Amazon! Now you might claim that Amazon did it for Prime members and video. But, KOBO? My test would show the truth of things and the Big Six need to do it.

  3. Call me Al

    I used to have Amazon Derangement Syndrome as much as anyone, but I’m with you now. Amazon can’t lock anybody into anything. In physical goods (like paper books!) they have a durable competitive advantage — they can get me anything I want wicked fast. But in a world where we’ll soon have low-glare smartphone and iPad screens? Poof! No more Kindle. Just apps and URLs. And in that world Amazon is as vulnerable as anyone.

  4. Pingback: Amazon Under Siege | Mike Cane's xBlog | Media Point - O Ponto de Encontro de todos os interessados nos Media!

  5. Michael Tamblyn said in a recent presentation that tablet users are, at best, casual readers

    I’m a SERIOUS reader and even I get sucked into CASUAL mode when I’m reading on the tablet. If I want to READ read, I now must go to a dedicated reader or paper.

    I am only one, but I am unanimous in my opinion.

  6. AdamC

    With the agency model brick and mortar stores at least have a chance and not decimated by Amazon’s scorch earth deep discount advantage model.

  7. Pingback: Writing on the Ether | Jane Friedman

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