Amazon may not be invincible after all
April 7, 2012 | 1:15 pm
If I were to pick one word describing the publishing industry’s attitude toward Amazon over the last couple of years, that word would be “panic”. We see it in the Authors Guild’s angry tirades about Amazon having too much power, in Barnes & Noble’s and other booksellers’ decision to boycott Amazon-published books, and most of all in the imposition of agency pricing by which publishers attempted to padlock a bell onto that obnoxious Amazon cat.
Because Amazon is now a big lumbering beast. As the future rolls out greater numbers of e-books and better print-on-demand capability, Amazon with its huge warehouses will have fewer advantages. The existing ecosystem of publishers will do a better job of selecting titles in which to invest their marketing dollars. Any publishers still in existence have survived the cull of a ruthless market because they are extremely good at picking winners within their target community.
Amazon is ascendant right now, she explains, because it’s taking advantage of the web as it currently is. However, the demographics of web use are constantly shifting. For example, people are spending more time on Facebook, which could be a much more powerful book recommendation tool than Amazon’s algorithms if Facebook only capitalized on it. And Buchan thinks that in the long term, Amazon’s “hastily assembled publishing arm” is not likely to be as profitable as Amazon hopes.
Is fear itself the only thing the publishing industry really has to fear? As with most prognostications of this nature, it will take time to find out. Still, it’s nice to see someone with specific ideas for how Amazon might be beaten rather than the more general “some competitor will surely arise” thinking that usually characterizes responses to claims of Amazon despotism.