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An article over at SNL Interactive explores the delicate business of dealing with Amazon. Sarah Barry interviews Michael Cairns of PersonaNonData and Mike Shatzkin of The Idea Logical Company about the ways publishers have responded to the growing market power of Amazon, and the online retailer’s willingness to use it.
Despite the strained relationship between Amazon and the publishing community, neither Cairns nor Shatzkin believe publishers will decide to stop dealing with Amazon altogether.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a love-hate relationship; it’s more of need and fear relationship,” Shatzkin said. “They need Amazon because it’s probably every publisher’s first or second largest client. But they fear Amazon because it’s every publisher’s first or second biggest client.”
Link [Thanks Jose, via Read 2.0!]
I read blogs daily that cover the ongoing changes in publishing, especially in digital channels. Through my little pipeline of RSS feeds, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and assume that, because the publishers I’m reading about are diving in to digital experimentation and thinking about new ways of doing business, that all publishers are doing so. In a few chats I’ve had recently with Australian publishers, agents and staff at writers centres, it’s clear this is not true.
Even The Economist, a conservative journal better known for its coverage of international trade and politics than the publishing industry, is observing the ways technology is changing publishing.
Publishing has only two indispensable participants: authors and readers. As with music, any technology that brings these two groups closer makes the whole industry more efficient—but hurts those who benefit from the distance between them.
When The Economist starts calling the race it’s time for publishers still in a default mode of “wait and see” to move to “evolve or die”.
[Image Source: libraryman, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0]
Apropos of a conversation I had with an industry pro on Friday, this nifty little comment from Galleycat:
…with the industry in as much flux as it is right now, it’s better to experiment and risk failure than to sit on the sidelines and then try to learn how to do what works after somebody else figures it out.
GalleyCat was referring to online promotion in the book industry, a panel he was on at BookExpo America (BEA). It’s an important observation in the context of book and author marketing, but I think it can also be applied across the whole digital publishing spectrum. If publishers adopt a “wait and see” attitude, they cede the market advantage. They may be worried about risk, or they may wonder who, among their industry rivals, will be the first to really seize the opportunity. However, are they sufficiently worried about people from outside publishing who are encroaching on their space – Amazon, Google and, before long I’d wager, Apple? Because when one or all of these behemoths turn their eye to a market, they colonise it. Seems like better sense to dive in, even if you’re not sure whether the water’s warm.
By the way, GalleyCat’s notes about online promotion from that BEA panel are fantastic. Go read them here.