I’m not a tech-head or a business brain, but I’m trying to comprehend the cause and effect behind everything Amazon does. After all, it’s important to the bottom line of so many small and mid-tier presses like mine. Bell Bridge Books.
Let me see if I’ve got the main takeaways sorted out:
1. Creating its own smart phone is vitally important to Amazon’s expansion plans, which are well in the works re: home delivery of groceries and other products, a broader reach into foreign markets, and an ever-growing influence on how, when, what and how we buy everything and anything here in America.
2. This phone has the technology to move people faster from “Want it” to “Got it” with its ability to identify thousands of products (even scenes from movies and TV shows) with a point and click ease.
3. Specifically, this phone steers the owner from “Want it” to “Amazon’s got it for you” and not to anyone else’s store.
4. The other big players are hard at work developing ways to direct customers to their own products in miraculous ways we can barely imagine. As so: you’re driving along and your phone pops up a message to let you know that that name-brand couch you want is on sale at Big Couch Store one mile to the left at the best price you’ll ever find anywhere.
5. So it’s crucial for Amazon to out-maneuver everyone else in terms of speed and convenience. Thus, it’s own tied-to-you-umbilically smart phone.
So what will this mean for ebook sales, (the phone includes all the Kindle bells and whistles, tah dah!) which have flattened in the past couple of years. Books are a loss leader for Amazon; they’ve always been the means to an end in terms of getting people through the doors to buy bigger items, but they remain the company’s gateway drug of choice. The Kindle e-reader was brilliantly conceived to sell ebooks and then led to sales of Kindle tablets that channel customers far beyond the books department.
The Fire smart phone hopes to take that seductive pathway even deeper into the world of merchandise. Will people who’ve never bought a Kindle e-reader or tablet be converted to the e-reading experience now that it’s packaged in a smart phone?
Yes, smart phones already offer good reading experiences, but this one comes with a complimentary year of Prime and will, no doubt, include incentives for Kindle book buyers that you won’t get on your iPhone, Android, or others.
So maybe the hold-outs who haven’t embraced the ebook experience will give it a try.
Could there be a surge of new ebook buyers? Another gold rush like the one Amazon started when the first Kindle hit the market in 2007? For publishers and authors, the upswing would be a welcome surge, since sales over the past two years have lost the glitter of those heady times.
On the other hand, even if there is a new joyride to be had, the landscape is so different from 2007 that the ride may be short and bumpy by comparison. Millions of self-published ebooks have joined the competition. Prices have been driven down. Middlemen are taking bigger cuts from publishers of all sizes, and every day some new promotional program or subscription service finds ways to scrape revenue out of creators’ pockets under the guise of “expanding the readership.”
But honest research shows that the ratio of supply to demand in the book world has remained pretty much the same since books became widely affordable to mass audiences. Regardless of a growth in literacy levels, a somewhat fixed pool of readers remains. Until recent years those readers had a relatively manageable feast of new books from which to choose every year, and publishers had a relatively decent chance of surfacing new titles to the audience.
Not now. Imagine a saltwater river where five whales (the Big 5 houses) once shared the passage with a variety of medium to small fish, with enough room for everyone to swim with a fair chance of survival.
Now that river is filled with the whales, the smaller fish, and millions upon millions of minnows. There’s little room to swim, to breathe, to dodge sharks, or to avoid being crushed when the stress causes a panic.
If the Fire smart phone fuels an explosion in the ebook market, let’s hope it’s the good kind. Depending on your definition of “good,” that could mean destroying the levees and letting the river expand, or blowing all the weakest fish out of the water permanently.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next. To say the least.