From The Guardian:
In December, Amazon US released its 2015 in-house all-format all-category bestseller list, and then the newspaper USA Today came out with its own industry-wide all-sources version. What was the difference? Two words: The Martian (good movie, but the book was better). It was a huge seller, number 4 on USA Today’s list, but nowhere on Amazon’s. There were other titles in the same anomalous situation. Why?
Because, even now, for most books and most people most of the time, the biggest spur to purchase is actually seeing an actual book in a physical place. Because for most people most of the time, reading is a take-it-or-yawn-leave-it activity. Books are not quite distress purchases, but neither are they exciting enough for enthusiastic online hunting.
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Nothing sells books better than physical displays in bricks-and-mortar locations. Millions of people passed by bookshop windows or airport bookstalls, and sawThe Martian, and some vague impression clicked in and they said, “Oh yeah, that’s supposed to be cool”, and they bought a copy, and enjoyed it. Same for the other anomalous titles. That is still how books get sold. Research bears it out. Physical eyeballing is way ahead of any other prompt, be it word of mouth, spam, social media or other kinds of advertising.
Which is a problem for Amazon. Classically it uses books to hook customers and then data-mine them. But it gets only dedicated book buyers. Browsing on Amazon isn’t great as a casual experience: fatigue sets in. (How do you make something totally invisible? Put it on page 17 of an internet search.) And Kindle hasn’t taken over the world. It has settled into a solid niche, like those tiny tubes of toothpaste – essential for travel, but no one uses them at home. (Down, fanboys! Real world!) So there is no way for Amazon to replicate that happy, random encounter with a physical bookstore window. Yes, there are bots and algorithms, but those casual millions of three-books-a-year people never see them: they don’t buy books online.
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So now, rumour has it, Amazon plans to open another 299 physical bookstores (it already has one, in Seattle).
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And suppose those 300 stores were only the start? We’d quickly approach a de facto monopsony. Amazon would become the only practical route to market for 1,400 US publishers and a million US self-publishers, for either digital or paper product. The history is worrying. Amazon has already tried to use its power in a punitive fashion, as if determined to hurt publishers financially.
Link to the rest at The Guardian