Yesterday’s announcement that Amazon had acquired the eReading App That Could, Stanza, has set keyboards to clacking across the blogosphere (yes, I said blogosphere—but I promise I will never, ever call Twitter users “tweeps”, “tweeple” or anything along those lines. A girl’s gotta have a code).
What’s done is done. Now onto the big question—why and how does this news affect Canadian publishing?
Whatever else it means (and there are many opinions), it is clear that Amazon is slowly but surely building eBook marketshare and it could get to (or already is) at the point where all standards are going to be determined de facto by them. Price point, file formats and structures and even what titles are available could be controlled by one vendor. Doesn’t exactly feel like the dynamic interchange of a new collaborative culture, does it.
Given that Canadians are already being forced to sit on the sidelines of the Kindle Kingdom, there’s an even more noticeable cloud accompanying this news. So what are our options to help create a more balanced tension between free market forces?
- Support other eBook vendors: Fictionwise gone to Barnes and Noble. MobiPocket and Stanza now part of Amazon. There has never been a better time to get your books to as many eTailers (nope, ‘eTailers’ and derivative words are NOT excluded by this girl’s code) as you can.
Shortcovers is a great, home-grown option for publishers looking to get their titles into the hands of Canucks. There’s also eBooks.com, the Sony store, Smashwords and many more I’m not including here.
- Decide on standards and fight for them: Michael Cairns at Persona Non Data said this far better than I can:
Hold back e-Content from retailers that refuse to play by the rules. “Fat chance” you say? Well, think about how hard this one will be to consider as an option in 5 or 10 years. If not now then never, and it really is the only credible option.Archiving and interoperability matter if publishers want to continue to own their electronic books the same way they own their print books. Retailer-level DRM changes existing structure dramatically if there is just own big player.
- Collaborate to create an alternative: Both Michael Cairns and Mike Shatzkin have suggested looking to CourseSmart, the higher-ed publisher collaborative venture, as a model for joining together. As Mike Shatzkin deftly puts it:
The publishers need to jointly fund and substantially own a virtual retailer whose mission would be to deliver all conceivable ebook formats (whether epub or not!) The store should be competitive with other offerings as to interoperability, lightness of DRM (I favor social only), and customer service.
This market is developing at a fevered rate. If you want to help shape the forces that are going to in turn, influence the way you create, sell and acquire books in the future, then now is the time.