Before I begin I would first like to make it known that I am a huge fan of Amazon. The paperback edition of my book is sold by CreateSpace and the Kindle version is sold by Kindle Direct Publishing, which are both Amazon companies. But I’ll try to be objective.
I’ve read several articles recently about the impact that Amazon has had on the publishing industry. Most often the takeaway seems to be that Amazon is not good for books for a number of reasons like the discounts they receive from publishers or how low they’re able to sell their e-books. There are plenty more but there’s no need for me to be exhaustive at this point.
Jeff Bezos started the company all the way back in 1994 as a bookstore. In the 20 years since then independent bookstores have been cut in half and the mega-chain Borders has shut its doors. But is it really smart to blame Amazon for both or either of those? Maybe. But what about the fact that indies were always under fire from big chains like Barnes and Noble and Borders? Or what about the fact that most indie bookstores have no place in the e-book market? Amazon is constantly blamed for the failure of indie bookstores in recent years, but there’s always more to it.
Several articles estimated that roughly seven percent of all of Amazon’s annual revenue comes from books, which puts the number around $5 billion. It’s easy for critics to throw that number out there and make a fuss about Amazon’s bookselling practices because they seem to be doing it better than any other company at the moment. But let’s think about what they’ve managed to accomplish to help the reader. First, the customer will never pay list price of a book on the site, no matter if it’s hardcover or paperback. Compare that to walking into your neighborhood Barnes and Noble bookstore and paying exactly what it says on the back cover. Second, the selection that Amazon is able to offer is far and away the most vast there is in the world today. Most readers have experienced the turmoil of wanting an obscure book that may be long out of print only to find that Barnes and Noble doesn’t have it online or in-store. And third, if Amazon didn’t have a place in the bookselling world then what would stop Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million from selling books at cover price. Or Kobo or Apple from selling e-books at higher prices. I mean, all four companies already struggle to compete with Amazon in the book marketplace, but they are competing.
Amazon also has several publishing imprints that operate just as any other traditional publisher and back the most lucrative book writing contest in the country, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which gives its grand prize winner a $50,000 publishing contract along with several $15,000 publishing deals given out to the genre winners.
Lastly, Amazon revolutionized the publishing world with its Kindle. No company has been able to develop an e-reader quite like it, which is why Amazon holds a roughly 67% percent e-book market share.
I’m not here to defend Amazon, but I would like for the site’s critics to be fair. Amazon’s competition in the marketplace helps drive prices of all books down for the reader. They changed the publishing world when they released their Kindle e-reader which has evolved into a full-use tablet comparable to any other. And they offer a selection of books that no other company can. So if I had to answer the question as to whether or not Amazon is good for books, well I think you know my answer by now. Yes.
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