The recent Hachette-Amazon standstill isn’t the first time when accusations have been hurled at Amazon for acting against the publishing industry. But these voices were never this loud earlier.
So, what is happening? Is Amazon hurting the publishing industry?
Let’s be clear about something. “Industry” doesn’t get hurt. Certain players do. And yes – Amazon has a strong hold over customers. Its business model is letting it operate on razor-thin margins. So, bookstores and traditional publishers are getting hurt by Amazon.
But at the same time, there is another section of the “industry” that is getting benefited. These are primarily independent authors and publishing houses who can use Amazon’s platform to build their business without needing the support from a traditional publishing giant.
Does it mean that Amazon is necessarily someone benevolent, while traditional publishers are the villains? No. there are no heroes and villains in business. When there is power, everyone wants to make the most out of it. Publishers have done it when they had power. Today, Amazon happens to have power. So, some people are feeling liberated from the traditionally powerful entities of publishing. The traditionally powerful, on the other hand, are hurting.
However, if absolute hold of publishers over what does or does not get published is bad, absolute hold of Amazon over the market won’t be good either. Amazon is supposedly benefiting customers too, by providing them with lower prices. But if they keep driving prices down, it would hurt the independent authors and publishers too, who are currently getting benefited by Amazon. And there is no guarantee that they will always keep playing fair to the content creators and curators. Already, to offer your e-book for free, you need to be exclusive to Amazon (KDP Select)!
So, I have no particular sympathy for old guards. But I won’t consider Amazon the ultimate savior either. I would want competition for Amazon to keep it playing nice.