Amazon doesn’t know it’s supposed to fail
March 29, 2014 | 9:00 am
I happened upon a Bookseller piece by Agent Orange (who I’ve mentioned before) noting that UK publishers have been making a lot of noise about the putative foolishness of Amazon’s plans. It’s funny how they seem to keep doing that, and Amazon never seems to pay any attention, isn’t it? Agent Orange notes:
It is depressing how often we have been here before. Publishers pour scorn and disregard on Amazon. Amazon presses on with its plans regardless (announcing it is massively expanding in the UK this coming year) and a year or two later publishers discover they have lost yet more ground to the Seattle behemoth.
Gosh darn those consumers who don’t know they’re not “supposed” to be in love with Amazon anyway, right? Darned uppity peons who don’t know what side their bread is buttered on…
But just as British publishing seems to be trying not to make a big deal about anything Amazon does except in the negative sense, perhaps its reactions to potential competitors betray it. As Philip Jones notes in another Bookseller piece, so contentious is Amazon’s market dominance in the UK that the entrance of grocery chain Tesco into the e-book market is being greeted with hosannas. But will Tesco be able to compete?
The bigger test will be convincing enough of its customers to take up reading on a tablet. That said, its impact on the marketplace cannot be taken for granted. If Tesco wants to make a dent, it is going to have to be both bold and unflinching; it will need to compete on price, and back it with customer service. It must not underestimate the short-term costs of this, and it should be careful not to overestimate the medium-term rewards. It will need to treat it like a sprint, but understand that it’s a marathon.
In the end, everything will work itself out one way or another. Maybe not for the best as far as everyone is concerned, but we’ll reach some kind of new equilibrium sooner or later (until the next disruptive effect sets in, whatever that is). In decades to come, people not yet born will look back and wonder how there could ever have been this much strife over something as trivial as books, and perhaps ask their parents or grandparents to tell them what life was like back in the days when traditional publishers ruled the roost.