From author John Brown:
Is Amazon in the process of ushering in a totalitarian book economy?
Is Bezos, as Hitler was in the 1930s, biding his time, playing a long game, one that will lull the masses into a false sense of bookish security? Are we appeasing him, letting him take over the continent bit by bit? Is the blitzkrieg less than a decade away?
If you listened to a recent Intelligence2 debate, you would have heard Franklin Foer and Scott Turow claim that, yes, that’s exactly where we are headed. On the other side of the debate were Joe Konrath and Matthew Yglesais, arguing that Amazon is the reader’s friend.
. . . .
Well, [Foer and Turow] argument went like this.
- Amazon right now provides an amazing service that’s far and above anything any other bookseller currently provides. They have made more books more accessible to more readers than anyone else ever in history. Readers, of course, love this. But this is a bad thing.
- It’s bad because Amazon is becoming a monopoly–it already has 41% of all new book and 67% of all e-book sales, and in many divisions of those markets it has even more.
- If Amazon were an enlightened ruler like Aslan, okay. But Amazon is a business, and as a business it only cares about its profits. And the way to make profits is buy low and sell high. So when Amazon finishes consolidating its hold on the market, it will force publishers and authors to take less of the pie.
- In fact, Foer-Turow claim Amazon wants to not just reduce the share of the pie publishers get, it wants to kill off the publishers and take their share of the book pie completely. In addition to being very poor manners, this is bad for three other reasons.
- First, authors of non-fiction books that take a long time to research will never be able to get the money they need to do that research. Publishers are the only ones who can give them that money, which they do in the form of an advance.
- Second, few authors of fiction will be able to afford good editing, marketing, and book design, and so the many voices that could have been heard will be stifled, or never rise out of the crap to their true potential.
- Third, and this is the nefarious Nazi part, if Amazon is the only place you see books, they can control which books you see, which means they will exert enormous control over our culture because they will be able to suppress some books, and therefore the ideas in those books, and promote others. Foer-Turow claim Amazon has already done this.
- Finally, because it’s a business and has a goal of profit, when Amazon covers the land, it will probably eventually charge readers more. In fact, it may charge them a lot more. It can’t avoid it; it’s a business.
. . . .
You need to know I’m not an Amazon groupie. Nor am I a hater of publishers. I am a businessman. I’m looking for good partners. And I recently wrote a post pointing out that it’s delusional for authors to think Amazon is their BFF with pinky rings. They are just, at the moment, a great indie partner. But their interests and mine are not perfectly aligned. Our love is definitely not written in the stars.
. . . .
But has the government given Amazon a legal monopoly?
Um, nope. No charters here to be the only fur trappers in the West.
Does Amazon have an army of thugs who are going to beat people up and make them join Amazon Prime?
No. Well, maybe that’s what the drones are for, but they haven’t rolled them out yet.
Do they own something nobody else can get, like a piece of land? Are they sitting on the world’s largest reserves of cheap book oil?
Nope. They’ve got a great website and excellent logistics. But websites really aren’t that hard. And if we’re talking ebooks, you don’t need logistics.
. . . .
What about the barriers to entry?
The big advantage Amazon has is that they usually have the lowest book prices around, the biggest selection (you can find almost any book you want there in any format it’s available in), and are incredibly convenient, providing samples, reviews, recommendations, and easy checkout. And they have the crowds.
It’s hard to get crowds. It’s hard to get all that content. It’s hard to beat their prices. Those are some dang good barriers that keep new guys out.
And Foer-Turow figured that’s all set. In stone.
. . . .
So is Amazon going to kill publishers? Only if the humans have left the building.
Will they kill authors? Only if authors let them.
Will they gouge readers? Not when other folks see there’s money to be made by undercutting them.
Amazon is playing in a global market with the likes of Alibaba, Google, Apple, Walmart, etc. Amazon is playing in an internet economy where college students can come up with an idea and become billionaires. Equally important, Amazon owns nothing that somebody else can’t recreate. They have no legal monopoly. They have no army of thugs. What they have is a lot of content, a well-known URL, logistics for the hard copies, and good prices.
But what they do not have is a marketplace where everyone else involved is absent a brain.
Link to the rest at John Brown
Here’s a link to John Brown’s books