Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Amazon take on the publishers

Tell Me a Story - opinion

Amazon has already shown readers they do not actually need bookstores. The squeeze has put many brick and mortars out of business.

Now Amazon is inciting authors to cast aside their publishers. This is a significant step forward. To have the equivalent worldwide exposure in brick and mortar bookstores would require an enormous distribution network. Amazon, as a publisher, can put books virtually anywhere.

Amazon is about to publish 122 books this autumn in a range of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a conspicuous move by the retailer’s fledging publishing program, which will site Amazon in direct competition with New York publishers that are also its most important suppliers. 

It has established a flagship line run by publishing past master, Laurence Kirshbaum, to produce brand-name fiction and nonfiction. It signed its first deal with author Tim Ferriss. Last week it announced a memoir by the actress and director Penny Marshall, for which it paid $800,000. 

Publishers claim Amazon are aggressively pursuing their top authors. Amazon are also nibbling away at other services that publishers, critics and agents, used to provide. No wonder the whole of the publishing world is feeling dazed.

For authors it seems to be a good thing. For too long, large publishing houses have grasped the reins that held back promising authors. Publishers have had their heads in the sand, and only recently realised their power has diminished. Is it already too late? Amazon has put so much squeeze on them, the cries we hear from publishers, may be their death rattle.

I only hope that once Amazon controls the whole of the literary world, they don't turn on authors and put the squeeze on them too.