Eleven years ago a New York Times opinion piece exhorted those who think they’ve got a book in them to think again. After going through a list of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) free and daily deal e-books I must add, “Think harder this time!!”
The book publishers were a public service, it turns out, as they read the manuscripts so you didn’t have to. A belated thank you to all those freshly minted English lit grads who slogged through the slush piles.
Now there are 48,968 how to self-publish books, cashing in on the secret dream of 81% of Americans who believe they have a book in them. Maybe the remaining 19% have a more modest dream just to be mentioned in the acknowledgments.
Before e-books became a phenomenon 80,000 books were published annually in the US in 2002. Searching on Amazon just now querying e-books, “2,034,436 Results” is what I got.
Let me put it like this, you go to a party but everyone save you is the most verbose of extroverts. The only one left to listen to all the anecdotes is you. Not much of a party after all, is it?
Eventually, despite a 99% US literacy rate there won’t be enough readers. Without the traditional support publishers provided who will market these books? Who will edit them?
Who was the game changer: Amazon or Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)?
There is no question Amazon has been a game changer in the book business. They helped put Borders out of business; Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE:BKS) is on the ropes. Independent and used booksellers might as well be antiquarians.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s devices are delivery systems of content purchased from the Amazon ecosystem and are currently loss leaders depending on the future success of Prime adoption and non-book e-commerce. At what point do all these books with so much competing content available also become loss leaders due to reader exhaustion? Could Amazon charge authors a modicum for its CreateSpace publishing or charge for some editorial oversight?
Amazon has the cloud and all the other e-commerce and investors should be glad of these other revenue streams. Amazon is also creating their own original video content, as are Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), but Amazon’s dozen or so shows do not a network make.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview last year, “All of our products here at Amazon, products and services, are built by missionaries. And I call it missionaries versus mercenaries.” It should be noted that Amazon was buying books for $13.00 and selling at a very unmercenary $9.99 before Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) came in and changed the pricing model for e-books when it negotiated with the big publishers. Apple had already done this with the record companies changing the music industry forever.
While the Department of Justice case, USA v Apple, will be decided in a few months, the future of e-books is still evolving. In any case, any fines meted out to Apple can be found in the Cupertino sofa cushions.