Last week I read an interesting post by Chris Brogan about Amazon’s continuing march toward distribution dominance. (Amazon and the Kindle Conspiracy) Chris knows what he’s talking about, and I learn a lot from his writing. (By the way, don’t miss his post, How Not to Write a Book. It’s right on.)
But does he have it right here? Is Amazon “winning” by doing what Apple did with the iTunes store: taking hold of the means of distribution regardless of the device on which the content is played?
This is a key concept for any self-publisher, now that ebooks have become hotly-contested properties in the digital merchandising wars.
Why? The one thing self-publishers could never achieve, the one thing that held them back from having a real impact on the world of publishing, was the lack of distribution. Always has been, still is today.
In the world of ebooks, distribution is changing radically. Self-publishers can now distribute through the Kindle store, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and myriad other ebook retailers. In many ways, the playing field is more level than it’s ever been.
Chris points out that Amazon‘s push to put its Kindle Reader app on every platform, from the iPad to the Mac, the PC, and on mobile devices, is smart. They’re trying to make it a kind of go-to standard.
But on the iPad, on the Mac or the iPhone, I have lots of readers, lots of portals onto ebook content. From here Amazon looks big, yes, but just one of the crowd. Ebookstores are springing up like mushrooms after a nice rain. Amazon has none of the dominance it has with print books.
If I want the ebook of a new Carl Hiaasen novel, I become a commodity shopper, buying at the lowest price from pretty much equal vendors. That’s a bad place to be, and that could be Amazon’s ebook sales without robust Kindle sales.
iPad’s Got the Books, Too
On top of that Apple, as Steve Jobs pointed out,
. . . was selling an iPad every three seconds . . . 5 million books were downloaded during the first 65 days of sales from the iBookStore, making up 22% of eBook sales.
iPad has only been out a few months. It’s such a radical departure from anything that went before, we still haven’t seen its real potential. It could create a whole new kind of computing. Many of the other tablet makers have pulled back their products, leaving Apple in the perfect position to continue taking market share away from Amazon, establishing iBookstore as a real competitor for Kindle.
The Next Generation
The iPad has also stimulated an explosion of interest in “enhanced” ebooks, multimedia publishing on a whole new scale. The iPad looks like it may become the one and only delivery vehicle for an entirely new form of digital content that’s simply out of Kindle’s reach. Maybe Apple doesn’t sell table saws and gourmet food (yet) but they understand how to establish powerful monopolies in technology better than anyone.
Textbooks, magazines, trade manuals, video instruction, tactile-feedback applications are all looking to exploit the iPad. They are using the iBookstore for distribution, but also the App store, where a lot of hybrid book products are already on sale.
I’m not convinced Amazon is in such a great position for the transition to ebooks, despite their head start, and despite their loyalists, who are many. Both companies are jockeying for position and change is in the air.
So, is Chris Brogan wrong about Amazon? What do you think?
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