This cracks me up. Amazon is selling folks a membership to create blog accounts. These blogs are then made available to other members to pay for downloads to their Kindle e-readers. I mean, no one gets into blogging for the money, but what could Amazon hope to gain by controlling content of…
Controlling content. Proprietary digital book readers. Is this why a former MIT grad I spoke to was predicting publishing as we knew it would be dead within five years, why people in the tech industry are laying bets on it?
It’s not about the blogs, it’s about testing out the means by which they can control content. Signing up “members” is no different from signing “authors.” One look at a POD vanity digital publishing site like Scribd or WeBooks confirms that a lot of people feel that traditional publishing serves to keep out more people that it accepts, leading frustrated writers elsewhere (even if it means signing away digital rights in perpetuity). Right now Amazon is working with publishers to legitimize their Kindle readers, but what happens when they’ve sold hundreds of millions of these ugly white units and have the clout to demand more of a cut? How much more?
Sky’s the limit.
Publish your blog right now and Amazon will take a 70% cut. Nice. So lets say you’ve got people hungry for books, authors itching to be published, and you get tired of having to share profits with publishers (and pesky authors) then what do you do?
Easy. Hire some recently fired editors, have them bring some authors on board, skip the publishing aspects of producing a physical book, and sell directly and exclusively to Kindle owners.
No, I’m not being chicken little. Publishing houses are practically giving away their business to Amazon right now because they don’t feel they have a choice. There is talk that the pub industry doesn’t want to go through what the music industry did (and has) with iTunes and the popularity of MP3 file sharing. But iTunes never aspired to become anything more than a gadget producer and retailer of content. Amazon looks to be positioning itself as the owner and controller of content, essentially able to replace the role of the publisher and keep the monies they are currently sharing.
A 30/70 split between author and Amazon might sound better than current contracts, but once there’s no one else to negotiate with Amazon can make that split anything they want it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t digital readers I have a problem with, it’s proprietary readers from a company easily poised to put an entire industry out of business within half a decade. If Sony and other developers cannot nail down a digital standard that allows readers to download e-books from multiple sources, and if publishers don’t demand it, Amazon will quickly become the only game in town.
Tell me I’m wrong, tell me Amazon is perfectly happy to create these digital readers to help publishers and authors generate more income for themselves, and that they don’t have a vested interest in securing a near monopoly on how people acquire and view book content in the future.