Nothing Is Forever in Publishing

Everything changes, even the unchanging sky (you just have to wait many years for astronomical events to occur).

But in retailing, in publishing, already in the midst of an upheaval brought about by new technologies, that great disrupter Amazon might also be disrupted at some point.

That’s the thinking of Suw Charman-Anderson, who observed in an article on Forbes.com that Amazon has a few potential problems, including its reviewing system (which has become unreliable), its lack of choice in comparison to Google Books, and the fact that certain big-name authors, such as J.K. Rowling, are making e-books available on their own sites.

“Amazon may still be at the top of the tree in terms of market share,” Charman-Anderson writes, “but it’s there because people are in the habit of linking to and going to Amazon, not because of any inherent advantage in doing so. That habit is being eroded, slowly but surely.”

This is inevitable – nobody stays at the top forever.

Authors are becoming more entrepreneurial, thanks to new technological tools. They already can self-publish on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites, and use such services as Smashwords to allow their books to be distributed across a variety of platforms. But they may also be in a position to make their books available on their own sites, if they have a strong enough platform.

Some bookstores are finally getting around to becoming more entrepreneurial in terms of serving authors as well as readers by becoming small-press publishers. Some publishers are trying to get more in line with self-publishing by offering those services (albeit for a hefty fee) to authors.

But really, it’s the author who may be the winner here (as well, of course, as the consumer and reader). More and more digital tools are making an author the master of his or her destiny. And more and more readers are willing to make a leap into the relative unknown to try out an author whose message, whose voice appeals.

So, Amazon is the leader by far as book retailer and online merchandiser. But that doesn’t mean it will always be. Not that this will change much for authors – Amazon is accommodating to authors who want to self-publish.

The point is, though, that nothing is ever settled in our current digital age. Just ask publishers.

Bob Hughes
Author: Bob Hughes
Robert J. Hughes ("Bob") was a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal for over a decade, specializing in culture reporting. He was the paper's theater reporter, wrote on publishing, the art and auction markets, television, music, film and philanthropy, and reviewed books.
  • Anonymous

    Very interesting perspective. I hadn’t given much thought to the possibility of the eventual demise of Amazon. I know Timothy Ferriss’ new book sure cause a rumble in the publishing world. Thanks for sharing your insights!