Cover Story: Amazon: The Elephant in the Room
Some authors start as e‑book self-published writers and want to sign with conventional publishers, Shatzkin notes, while others establish themselves the old-fashioned way and then turn to e‑books, either directly with Amazon or through self-publishing, to increase their margins. And Barnes & Noble's Nook e‑book platform, while still well behind Kindle in market share, has to some extent been effectively countering the Amazon juggernaut by keeping Nook as a viable alternative.
A far more positive analysis comes from Wikert. "I think what Amazon is doing on the self-publishing side is terrific," he says. "Traditional publishers need to wake up to the self-publishing phenomenon and figure out how it fits in with their own models."
But Norris doesn't think Kindle Direct Publishing is all that big a deal. "Right now there's a lot of smoke, but I don't see much in the way of fire," he says. "The thing is, every time one of these 99-cent authors sounds off about how much money they're making, you have to realize that there are 10,000 or maybe more authors that can't get anyone beyond their immediate family to buy their books."
A New Publisher In Town
Amazon showed its intention to go beyond e‑books and confront publishing on its home turf in fall 2011, when it announced plans to publish more than 100 books including titles by the likes of Timothy Ferriss and Penny Marshall in both e‑book and print formats. The industry reacted quickly, as retailers from Barnes & Noble (which also has a publishing arm) to Books-a-Million, to Canadian retailer Indigo declared they would not stock Amazon Publishing titles.
This retailer boycott of Amazon titles, in Shatzkin's view, will make some authors today think twice before going with Amazon Publishing, since it will limit their physical book distribution channels. But he sees this as a temporary drawback. "That will matter less each day going forward," he says. "The percentage of sales that will be controlled by Amazon is going to keep going up."