What about Amazon? This is the first question that anyone in or around publishing asks when discussing a new idea. So let’s talk about it….
Amazon is by far the 300-pound gorilla in the book business. They started in books, and their CEO, Jeff Bezos, has a passion for this space. They have successfully navigated from being just a physical book seller to one of the largest retailers in the world, selling flat-screen TVs, Angry Birds plush toys, and a myriad of other things you don’t need but want with your Prime free two-day shipping. The Kindle was revolutionary as the first digital reader that users actually liked and used (sorry Sony). And whether most people know it or not, their foot print continues to grow with strong cloud based services, a New York City publishing house, print on demand, and various other digital initiatives that feed back into the mothership.
Which brings me to my point.
Amazon is doing a lot. In fact, they are doing too much. They can’t focus just on books because they are trying to compete with Netflix on movies, Apple on music, and states on territorial rights and taxes. They may be selling a million Kindles a month, but the new Kindle Fire isn’t without its problems. It has one-tap security purchase issues, some of the buttons are too easily and accidentally pushable, and the scroll-through-the-bookshelf interface is as weak as my grandma’s bladder. In other words, there are opportunities. Publishers and tech-savvy publishing companies should ask the question, “What about Amazon?”, but they should be focusing on those things that Amazon doesn’t and won’t do well. What about book discovery? Collaborative social reading? Geo-location coupons and events using digital in physical stores? Crowd and professional curation of new material? Repositioning and promotion of backlists? I could go on, but you get the point.
Amazon is a leader and will be one for many years to come. But the fate of publishing is not in their hands. It is in the hands of those wiling to think and act innovative enough to recognize opportunity and deliver tools and services that readers will desire in the new digital world.