Welcome to the weekly The Smart Set, where I share three smart pieces worth reading about the publishing and media industry. I also point to issues and questions raised, and welcome you to respond or ask your own questions in the comments.
“To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.”
—Terry Tempest Williams
[How to Give] Amazon a Headache by Mike Shatzkin
Industry analyst Mike Shatzkin floats an interesting idea, partly inspired by how Google and Barnes & Noble recently partnered for same-day delivery of books (a big yawn for industry observers.)
What if Google and Ingram, the book business’s largest wholesaler and distributor, became partners? Shatzkin writes:
[Ingram is] already providing global digital and print distribution as well as print-on-demand. Ingram is positioned to deliver any book in any form anywhere extremely efficiently. They also have a robust and accurate database of book metadata which, if combined with Google’s data and search mastery (and capabilities that match Amazon’s “Search Inside” offering as well), could challenge Amazon effectively as a “best first place to look” for any information about books.
What Google needs to take on board to make the strategic leap to explore a partnership like this is that most book consumers read both print and digital and probably will for some time to come. It will get harder and harder to compete with Amazon without a print-and-digital offering; you can’t be fully effective with either one unless you do both.
Thoughts & questions:
- Is it true that both print and digital offerings are needed to compete with Amazon?
- Does Google really need Ingram if it’s serious about becoming one of the biggest players in the book business?
- What value would Google-Ingram provide to customers that Amazon does not? Or is that irrelevant since Google is baked into so many people’s day-to-day experiences? (E.g., you search for something, Google recommends a book you should reference—but do you automatically go to Amazon to buy it? Why buy from Google-Ingram?)
Amazon’s Fan-Fiction Portal Kindle Worlds Is a Bust for Fans, and For Writers Too by Jeff John Roberts
The headline is misleading and the article is flawed, but the piece is still worth a look.
Last year, Amazon launched Kindle Worlds, which allows authors to write and profit from new work that’s based on licensed properties. (It’s the only way you might legitimately profit from any form of fan fiction, as far as I’m aware). At the time, many prognosticators said the effort would fail because profiting from fan fiction is antithetical to the philosophy and practices of the community.
A new paper by law professor Rebecca Tushnet explores the Kindle World initiative, its restrictions, and its limitations. She does not conclude that the effort is a bust—either in the eyes of Amazon or for the writers who use the service (thus the misleading headline and flawed article). And Amazon has not indicated they plan to pull back on their efforts. But it’s interesting to pause and consider how the initiative has developed, and what its long-term place might be in the fan-fiction community. (For a critique of the piece, check out The Digital Reader.)
Thoughts & questions:
- As Nate Hoffelder says in his critique, what we don’t know is the profitability of Kindle Worlds material (whether for Amazon, the writers, or the copyright holders). That’s a fairly significant unanswered question.
- Have you written any fiction for Kindle World, or purchased any Kindle World work? Let us know about the experience in the comments.
Blurb Puts Its Big-Boy Pants On by Mick Rooney
Rooney rightly points out that Blurb is a “sleeping giant” of the self-publishing services world. It’s most well-known for specializing in full-color, illustrated books, and has quietly been doing very well for years. (It’s especially popular in the photography community, and I’ve used it myself for personal projects.) In April, Blurb added distribution through Amazon, and they just announced distribution via Ingram. They’re one to keep an eye on.
Thoughts & questions:
- I’ve always liked Blurb as a service because of its quality product and transparency. They don’t try to sell you stuff you don’t need. If you have an experience to share about Blurb, please comment.