Over the past few years, I’ve encountered countless startups that claim they are going to disrupt or revolutionize book publishing.
I once thought we might see one of those take off. Today, I’m not so sure. Book-related startups face a particularly tough path forward. Here are a few reasons why.
. . . .
Any company that comes along trying to reinvent book publishing is competing not only with traditional book publishers but also with Amazon, which is almost 20 years old but keeps finding new ways to shake things up. Print book buying continues to move online and Amazon, which is now delivering on Sundays and offering same-day delivery in a growing number of cities, has a lock on that business. Kindle, launched in 2007, is the dominant ebook reading platform and Amazon is continually rolling out improvements to the Kindle e-reader and Kindle apps — sharing, search and so on — that rival what many startups have tried to do.
. . . .
Unlike newspaper publishers, the large traditional book publishers are doing pretty well, thanks in part to increased profits from ebooks. This week, for instance, we saw profits rise at Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. Titles from traditional book publishers dominate bestseller lists. A lot of self-published authors are doing well, too, but quite a bit of their success is tied to Kindle and it’s unclear that startups can do much to assist. It’s going be tough for them to draw authors away from either traditional publishers or Amazon. That’s why I’m skeptical of companies that aim to crowdsource publishing.
. . . .
Startups that focus on delivering original ebook content or on helping readers find new books begin from the premise that readers have trouble finding enough things to read. This notion seems absurd: Anybody on the internet these days is overwhelmed with an infinite list of free things to read and a zillion services trying to curate reading material for them. There is not room here for a new recommendation service that is focused specifically on books: Readers don’t have time for it. They have too much other stuff they’ve been meaning to read already, whether it’s a book or a blog post.
Link to the rest at Gigaom and thanks to Matthew for the tip.
PG says a lot of the ebook startups aren’t terribly original or innovative. For one thing, he hasn’t seen any that demonstrated any serious technical chops (although he might have missed some).
He thinks Goodreads would have been an excellent target for disruption because of its crude infrastructure, but nobody seemed to be able to do much about it before Amazon acquired GR. He suspects Goodreads crudity is on its way out.