Every few weeks, the Amazon juggernaut rolls forward, one step at a time, towards its unstated goal of dominating the entire book industry value chain.
The progress to date:
Author sign-ups? Check.
Selling paper books? Check – various paper book publishers have been acquired.
Selling eBooks? Check.
A platform for “consuming” the books? Mail oui. Check.
Recommendations? Check and check.
Short of actually robo-reading books (entrepreneurs, I am patenting that idea right now), it has forward and backward-integrated into almost every aspect of the book value chain.
But one of the key reasons it succeeds so brilliantly is that it continuously makes it easier for book creators and book consumers to each get what they want: Money. Audience. Low-cost books.
And in that process, it has disrupted the publishing industry like few things have, in the past.
Consider what it did with author royalties recently, as an example:
“In this digital age, we don’t see why authors should have to wait six months to be paid,” Amazon’s VP of publishing Jeff Belle wrote in the letter.
“Beginning with our March payment cycle, we will move to paying our authors on a monthly basis. More specifically: each month’s royalties will be released within 60 days of the end of that month, every month. For example, royalties for sales in January will be released by March 31, royalties for sales in February will be released by April 30, etc.”
This, when the industry norm was 6 months.
This does a couple of things.
1. If you already uses Amazon Publishing and you are a struggling author (like many, I hear, are), you are going to love the improved cash flow. And this will be another reason not to switch to others, perhaps even when you start to become famous and don’t need a strong publisher behind you. Such a clever little way to raise authors’ switching costs.
2. More interestingly, if you a middle-of-the-pack author that has the luxury of choosing publishing houses, from a cash flow perspective, Amazon makes it so compelling.
Now, other publishers may respond in kind. I am going to guess that, with electronic sales data and credit card settlements taking, what, 60 days (?), it shouldn’t be too hard to match Amazon, but by then, it would have looked at yet another way to differentiate itself and do something that appeals to the (only) two constituencies that really matter in this space – authors and readers.
And so it goes.