Saturday, 10 August 2013

The big 'Zonopoly: What would I do as their CEO?


When it comes to eBook sales, Amazon are the big boys. Every author knows it. iBooks and Nook are not a million miles behind, but most of us will derive the lions share from Amazon. They sell more print than any other retailer, and the kindle is the de facto king of the eReaders.

Like most authors, I love Amazon. I can take a manuscript from my hard drive to your eReader via them in minutes. I can upload a book today, and by the end of the weekend effortlessly have it on thousands of eReaders via the Select free program.

That gives Amazon a lot of influence. They could cut royalties, and authors wouldn't have much comeback. Their platform is what sells books, especially for the newbie / less well known author. For niche nonfiction, keyword searches by readers make that niche profitable when advertising would destroy any chance of a good ROI.

With that in mind, what could a shrewd Bezos do in the next few years?

·         Cut royalties - the competition could pay more, but if they sell less then we'll still need Amazon.

·         Demand exclusivity - Hands up if you could live on eBook royalties without Amazon. That'll be a small minority. If they demanded exclusivity, many would be forced to comply.

·         Increase royalties - At least, short term. Offer 80% (and ask for exclusivity while doing it). Kill the competition, then do what you like.

·         Charge administration fees - Right now, it's all about quantity of content... but at some point Amazon's store will become akin to a great big bargain bin. they send out Kindle Quality Notices to sub-par content owners so this is already happening. If keywords become too cluttered, or the experience deteriorates, they'll need to start curating content more. One way or another, we'll pay for that.

·         Sign more authors to their legacy imprints - Amazon has a number of great imprints. Locking up secondary rights ties in with the Bezos aim of becoming the go-to digital media company offering books, music, films, tv and apps. This is typical Amazon long term thinking.

·         Start offering 'all you can eat' eBook subscriptions - Like audible, netflix etc... Owned content is the present. Streamed and library content is the future. I can forsee readers paying £5/ month for as many books as they like, and Amazon paying a fee per download - at a small fraction of today's rates of course.

·         Open up ACX to non-US markets - Audiobooks are big business. Amazon will roll this out internationally.

·         Offer translation services - English speakers are a good proportion of the world's readers, but Spanish, Chinese, French and Arabic are huge. If Amazon wants global dominance, it'll need foreign language content.

·         Screen content for plagiarism - Easy to do, and with recent incidents of wholesale copying of big books, particularly in New Adult, it's going to be necessary. This goes back to content curation - PLR, copy pasted/ spun books... They've gotta go.

·         Re-enforce the review systems - They keep trying here, and innocent reviews seem be getting caught up. Amazon are big enough to either DIY a better algorithm to detect plagiarism, or hire in outside expertise. A flag system is an easy way to go here - repeated word patterns, IPs, financial links, books reviewed as verified purchase without having been downloaded & or finished, clusters of reviews at one time, review average length being either way above or way below normal, preposterous conversion % (out of 1000 readers, n author is lucky to get 5 reviews)... Lots of obvious places to start here.

Amazon has lots of opportunities to solidify their already well-entrenched position. It may be a good time to re-invest some of those royalties in Amazon shares (actually - that's another good idea offering author purchase of reviews without ever actually paying out as it cuts the transaction fees of processing, and keeps more float money in their coffers).

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