LBF ogo_tues_weds_thurs_330x200You can add one more name to the list of all the companies bemused or overwhelmed by the proliferation of self-publishing: Amazon. Apparently the chief exponent and beneficiary of the trend is feeling a little swamped too – at least according to feedback from the Publishing for Digital Minds conference in London, as reported by Digital Book World, and in Twitter streams from attendees at the event, including Porter Anderson.

Amazon is starting to query the use of the term “self-publishing,” for one thing. The London Book Fair Twitter feed quoted Jon Fine, director of author and publisher relations at Amazon, as saying that “In ten years we won’t talk about self-publishing, authors will know they have a range of opportunities to reach readers.”

Self-publishing definitely seems to be one of the favored ways for now, though. According to Porter Anderson’s Twitter feed, Fine has stated that in the UK, about 20 of the top 100 titles sold digitally each week on Amazon are self-published. “We’ve created this tsunami of content,” said Fine. “It’s a high class problem to have too many stories. We, as tech companies, publishers, authors, service providers, have to find ways to help stories find the right audience. This discoverability problem is the next big challenge.”

Discoverability, of course, is also where Amazon is seen to excel, with its recommendations and visibility algorithms. Authors may have  a range of opportunities available in future, but I’d like to bet that few of them will offer as effective conduits to the readers as Amazon, whose business model for books at least is beginning to look less and less about distribution, and more and more about search and recommendation. And how far publishers can get their heads around that end of the business remains a very open question.

That’s a problem for them more than for authors, though. And Anderson Tweets a quote from Hugh Howey, appearing on the same panel: “We’re delivering stories…don’t get hung up on the new thing. We deliver stories to people who want to hear them.”


  1. Despite your (and Howey’s) statements, discoverability is indeed more of a problem for authors than it is for Amazon; for Amazon has so much content, and such a customer base, that they know they can sell whatever they have to somebody. But that business is going the way of popular (and well-advertised) authors and targeted searches, while plenty of other authors’ content sits undiscovered on Amazon’s virtual shelves.

    Amazon will certainly make more money if its many obscure authors see more discovery and more sales… but it is the authors who need to be rescued from obscurity more than Amazon needs to profit from them.

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