On the one hand, Amazon continues to be the largest channel for my own books, which are admittedly in some rather niche areas that would not be found in typical bookstores. As one who has long considered self-publishing for some of my even more niche ideas, I have celebrated the tools and services that Amazon has brought to the table such as CreateSpace and their Kindle Direct program. Amazon's leadership in the ebook space has really helped create an entirely new way of reading.
The publishing industry is being incredibly disrupted by Amazon and in many ways that's a good thing for authors and ultimately for readers.
... on the other hand, the part of me that advocates for open networks strongly detests the "lock-in" of Amazon's proprietary ebook format (Mobi) and their distribution network. Even more, I've been very concerned lately by the extent to which they've been using their massive distribution control in their contract negotiations. Here's a view on one of the latest skirmishes:
- Dennis Johnson: Return of the thug: Amazon removes buy buttons for thousands of ebooks from indie distributor that won’t play ball
Now, this is perhaps to be expected... Amazon needs the absolute lowest costs possible for their commodity model to work. If you want to sell your books through their service, you have to come to terms with Amazon.
Still, it's troubling. As more and more bookstores close... as people increasingly move to using ereaders... we are increasingly getting to the point where Amazon really is the choice to buy books, particularly when they make it so incredibly easy to do so.
The great danger here lies in having that near-monopoly on our ability to purchase books. How else will they wield that power to extract concessions from others in the publishing chain? Will that be good or bad for authors and for readers?
O'Reilly's Joe Wikert had a good post out recently:
While he obviously comes at it from the publisher's perspective, it's definitely worth thinking about.
How can we as consumers encourage the existence of multiple ecosystems of book/ebook distribution so that we can have a choice?
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