Amazon’s Domination

Amazon’s aggressive empire expansion shows no sign of abating.  An arms race between the major players in the online publishing industry has seen the world ravaged by the ‘Ebook Wars’.  Technological advancement and investment has resulted in Amazon’s heavily armed Kindle offerings leaving Barnes and Nobles’s Nook on the brink of annihilation, in a war reminiscent of the carbine rifles versus sharpened bits of coconut conflicts of yesteryear.  Barnes and Nobles announced last month that they will stop manufacturing Nooks all together and that they are currently seeking an ally to build them.  In the previous fiscal year the Nook lost close to $475m.  The continual bombardment also resulted in 20 Barnes and Nobles retail businesses being reduced to dust last year.  Amazon currently occupies about two thirds of the US online publishing market and ninety-percent of the UK’s.  Analysts argue that Amazon’s updated supersonic multi-attack fighter, the Kindle Fire, is already riding a-mock through the smoking rubble of the online publishing industry.

Tank(Courtesy of www.dragart.com)

The ‘Ebook Wars’ were followed in quick succession by ‘The Pricing Wars’, as Amazon’s enemies battling for survival in the face of a relentless attack, have mimicked their strategy of offering 70% royalties to authors within a certain price category.  Kobo, seen by many as the friendly face of online publishing are offering 70% of sales for ebooks between $2.99 and $9.99.  Only time will tell if Kobo have any defense for the predicted retaliatory Amazon carpet bombing campaign.  It seems doubtful that the friendly face will provide it.   Barnes and Nobles’s highest rate for authors is 60%, which might yet prove shrewd in allowing them to slip under the radar, but this strategy offers little defense against the stealth bomber that is KDP Select (An author offers their book for free on Amazon for a limited time as a promotion on condition they remove it from competitors sites).

Of course many have argued that global domination is Amazon’s main objective and that the publishing side is merely a means to an end.  Perhaps none have put this as eloquently as @JoeWikert, who Tweeted:

Books are nothing more than roadkill on Amazon’s highway to total retail domination: http://onforb.es/RypySa  #TOCcon

Some people have been up-in-arms over the accusation that our sacred books are being used as cannon fodder, others have argued that anything is fair game in war.

Technological advancement has been the deciding factor in global dominance throughout history and this appears to hold true for Amazon, whose complex algorithms and list features, give an arguably more streamlined, user-friendly and informative experience than any of their competitors.  Another reason for their success is their sense of community (some claim propaganda) recently bolstered by the capture of Goodreads.  For Amazon’s enemies this is a major strategic loss as they will no longer have bases on Goodreads linking them back to their mainland sites.  All links will go directly to Amazon HQ.

Risk

(Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)

Goodreads users can expect a considerable reconstruction investment from Amazon, resulting in more complex algorithms that give better book recommendations and an improved interface.  However some self-proclaimed whistleblowers are warning users  on Goodreads forums to flee and seek refugee status elsewhere, in the face of what they claim is Amazon tyranny, arguing that a take-over will result in a loss of independence.  Whether these whistleblowers face extraordinary rendition and detention in some Central Asian Amazon affiliate or become assimilated in a new and improved online environment remains to be seen.

We all have our own opinions about the new world in which we find ourselves, but I am sure that all us book lovers will hope that once the dust settles, a few undamaged bookshops will remain standing, if only for nostalgias sake.

Click here to read Part 2.

5 Comments

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  • Total market domination. It’s not surprising but still very chilling. I have bought the odd item from Amazon, but have always been suspicious of its ever lengthening reach, which is why I tend to buy real books in a range of real and not virtual bookshops.

    I was shocked when they acquired Goodreads, especially as Goodreads until recently didn’t allow uploads of Amazon-sourced book cover illustrations (I expect that’s changed now). Luckily I also catalogue books on Library Thing, whose format I mostly prefer (even with the latest re-formatting) and, best of all, it doesn’t include advertising.

    Hard not to be scaremongering, I know, but this is a timely warning. Even if, as I suspect, it’s spitting into the wind.

  • Agree with the post. We don’t want monopolies, but we, authors have to do our part and diversify + promote other retailers. Alas, for most authors, and readers too (!), dealing exclusively with Amazon is a convenience that only adds to Amazon’s near monopoly. And unfortunately, other retailers aren’t making it easy to diversify. See my post about “What’s going on with Kobo?” for a discussion on Kobo’s glitches.

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