Earlier this year, Amazon, the largest outlet for POD books, announced that at least five copies of books would have to be warehoused at Amazon before they would sell them. To avoid this expense, Amazon advised publishers to have books printed by Amazon’s own company, BookSurge, not Lightning Source. This drew much consternation from writers and publishers. Naturally it seemed coercive, and possibly illegal given anti-trust laws. But should we be surprised?
Over the years Amazon has been selling online books in new and innovative ways. They were the first to utilize search tags, book previews, author profiles, customer reviews, author blogs... the list goes on. They were also the first to welcome publishing writers. Did they anticipate what a boom this would be? Certainly they must have noticed trends as their book sales enjoyed double-digit growth every year. Could we really expect them to sit on their laurels?
With a huge author/publisher base, Amazon saw the possibilities that flanked both the publishing and selling ends. They jumped in. To secure the publishing end Amazon bought BookSurge, a subsidy, then created CreateSpace, a Lulu-like clone. To have writers flock to them they ran a contest. Thousands came, and although there was only one winner, a huge publishing base resulted. To maximize the selling end, Kindle was born. Kindle is Amazon's eReader. Now Amazon is publishing, marketing, and selling books in different formats. Suddenly from cradle to grave, Amazon declares it is the guiding light for all.
So how concerned should a publisher be?
My thoughts: The publishing field continues to morph, adapt and it’s difficult to predict the future. There are many players. Apple may partner up with Lightning Source and Barnes and Noble, a company that has retooled itself and doubled sales in the past year. Ebooks may play a huge role in sales, or maybe not. X-presso machines may print books at your local grocery store, thereby obviating online sales altogether. Amazon’s decision to play a forceful hand is, in my opinion, just one of many surprises to come. Amazon is making strides early, but are other heavy hitters on vacation? I think not. The bottom line: competition is good (I can't believe I said this, but somebody slap me if I'm wrong), and we, as publishing writers, can only gain.