The future of publishing

While the dispute between Hatchette and appears on the surface a fight between titans, in reality every publisher and author, big and small, has a stake. Frankly, it's hard to be overly optimistic about the effects.

Using Twitter, Michael Tamblyn, the head of Kobo, neatly laid out what's going on and what the future holds. The Twitter feed is here.

Here are the Tweets (glommed from Publisher's Lunch):

1. Indie authors take note: Amazon is, among other things, a machine designed to optimize product prices in order to gain share and sales.

2. AMZN, like every retailer that reaches a certain size, turns to its suppliers to grow profitability by demanding more favourable terms.

3. The Hachette-Amazon fight is an especially public manifestation of that Big Retail process. Nothing new there (Walmart, Target, B&N et al)

4. Some vocal traditionally published authors (but not all) support Hachette and criticize Amazon and…

5. Some vocal independent authors (but not all) support Amazon and criticize Hachette...

6. Defense of Amazon by indie authors makes sense on one level. For them, AMZN is the well-spring, where the self-pub revolution started.

7. But it seems like self-published authors believe they are protected somehow - that what is happening to Hachette won't happen to them.

8. Some indie authors even muse that the best possible strategy is exclusivity with Amazon, leaving readers on other platforms behind.

9. In the long run, I don't think that Amazon makes a big distinction between a publisher and an indy author - they are both suppliers.

10. Hachette and the rest of the big 5 sit at the top of a list of suppliers to be "improved" from Amazon's perspective.

11. Hachette is first because one negotiation with a big publisher makes a lot of bestselling books more profitable. That's efficient.

12. I don't think anyone believes that AMZN will stop with Hachette. With a successful conclusion, all pubs will go through the same thing.

13. They will move down the list. Midsized or smaller publishers come next. (Assuming this all isn't being pursued quietly in parallel.)

14. From Amazon's perspective, how is an independent author any different than a publisher? Still a supplier, to be made more profitable.

15. The indie author's situation is most tenuous of all. If >80% of sales come from AMZN, *no leverage when it's your turn to be "optimized"

16. An indie author, like any publisher, can take her books away if in conflict with AMZN. But it hurts the author *way more than Amazon.

17. A reasonable author response to the AMZN threat wdb: "they won't need to do that to us. Our prices are already where they need to be."

18. (Indy authors on Amazon are penalized if their books are too expensive, so that's largely true.)

19. But that assumes that the AMZN battle is about price. It's not. It's about profit. And _any_ supplier can be made more profitable.

20. If indie authors are 20% of AMZN's total sales, then it's hard to imagine that indie authors aren't on that list to be improved.

21. But if the AMZN battle extends to indie authors, authors will have less leverage. Especially if they are exclusive.

22. The mechanisms for the AMZN squeeze are in place, agreements allow it. Self-pub inclusion in Select, Unlimited, KOLL are early examples.

23. Amazon can and will, as a business, do what it needs to do to _all_ suppliers in time to improve profitability and grow share.

24. Selling other publishers and authors, AMZN can survive without Hachette, but uncomfortably and less profitably.

25. With a diverse base of retailers, Hachette can survive without AMZN, also uncomfortably and less profitably.

26. Both parties having other options is why this dispute wasn't over in a week or a month.

27. The litmus test for an indie author: could your income survive a conflict with Amazon? If not, it's worth thinking about how you could.

28. To paraphrase: "First they came for the big New York publishers, but I wasn't published by a big New York Publisher…"

29. Then they came for the mid-sized publishers, but I wasn't published by a mid-sized publisher...

30. Then they came for the academic presses...

31. Then they came for the literary presses...

32. Then they came for me."

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