Wednesdays in Publishing: Amazon vs. Publishers, Round 759 (Fight!)

With the press release released yesterday proclaiming Amazon Launches the International Shopping Experience in the Amazon Shopping App I had to go ahead and admit that Amazon is taking yet another step forward toward gobbling up the world. This app allows Chileans access to the same shopping experience we here in the States enjoy every day, pushing Amazon into yet another market — was anyone even aware that there were still markets they hadn’t oozed into yet? I certainly wasn’t.

Amazon and the world of traditional publishing have been doing their dance — really, an aggressive mambo of shaking and moving and trying to out maneuver the other in a less than graceful way — for years. If you’re one of the MANY people who casually browse books in the bookstore, only to make note of which ones you want and then order them directly from Amazon instead (or, hell, if you bypass the bookstore altogether and just pull out your trusty device to with its easily-accessible Amazon app) then you are part of the reason that Amazon seems to be winning so many rounds against the Titan Traditional Publishers. I vividly remember my professors, when I was doing my Publishing M.A., insisting that we NOT buy books from Amazon, EVER, for that would make us aggressors against our own craft. Imagine that — being a traitor to your own industry, your own livelihood and craft at the tap of an app. Imagine watching all of your friends do it, watching the world do it, wondering if your place in the world was as precarious as you thought it might be growing with each passing day.

Books are notoriously priced shockingly low on Amazon, even on the very first day of a book’s release. Not surprisingly, this draws buyers from near and far away from the $26.99+ prices that bookstores charge on behalf of publishers and their own bottom lines. A few years back, Publishers and Amazon waged a battle over book prices; essentially, Publishers demanded that Amazon raise their prices to make the competition more even. Amazon refused, laughingly probably. They had the upper hand. So, Publishers tried a maneuver with ebook pricing. Amazon followed suit. Not only this, but Amazon has been involved in the publishing game for years themselves, offering self-publishing platforms such as CreateSpace (which make old head, super traditional publishers CRINGE) and it’s own book imprints, like 47North and Montlake Romance, with enough releases and force behind them to stand up to Traditional Publishers any day. They’ve been trying to outwit each other move by move ever since, Traditional Publishers vying to hold on to their reins of “gatekeepers” of the literary world. Amazon, though, keeps yanking on those reins.

We all know that Jeff Bezos has enough loose change lying around in his pockets and couch cushions to cause major problems for any industry he wants to. I, myself, have often wondered why he doesn’t just buy Twitter and shut down Donald Trump’s Twitter account and be done with it! However, Amazon’s growing footprint across the world markets and the publishing industry continues to swell. Where will that leave publishing– as we knew it 30 years ago, as we knew it last year, as we know it today–then? I honestly cannot say.

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