Cover Story: Amazon: The Elephant in the Room
Perhaps even more important, in Wikert's opinion, is the technical-legal side represented by digital rights management (DRM). This could represent a way to counter Amazon's increasing dominance, if publishers can work together. "One of the biggest opportunities is for the industry to realize that Amazon is creating a lock-in strategy for their customers, and publishers have contributed to it by insisting on DRM," he says. In this view, the Kindle and its proprietary MOBI file format are analogous to Apple's closed iTunes system. "If publishers could break free of DRM, just like music labels have, Amazon's market dominance could be better challenged."
Soaring over legal, marketing, technical and pricing concerns may be the opportunity to come up with improved products that will render irrelevant, in readers' minds, who's selling it, and how. That, at least, is Norris' view. "It's up to the publishers to make their content valuable and package it in such a way that the consumer says they'll buy it no matter what the cost."
For authors who self-publish, Kindle Direct Publishing's (KDP) offer of 70-percent royalties is only one of several Amazon efforts to capture exclusive content for its e‑book platform. In addition, the company has directly sought to sign new authors and offer those who have previously self-published financial incentives for making Kindle their exclusive e‑book platform. Popular business author Seth Godin is one of the top names who has worked with KDP.
But Amazon's pursuit of e‑book authors stops short of being all things for all self-published writers, says Shatzkin. "Right now an author who is depending on Kindle Direct is giving up print in stores, and, depending on how deeply they get into Kindle Direct, they could be giving up e‑book sales through other channels," he says. "The trade-off is worth it to some people and not worth it to other people."