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They Own the System: Amazon Rewrites Book Industry by Marching into Publishing (bubblin.io)
77 points by marvindanig 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments



So their example is a book that got rejected by mainstream NYC publishers and was bought by Amazon for “low five figures”, which is actually damned good if you’re not a name brand (and if you are you’d rather the royalties anyway).

They’ve also offered self publishing that, while obviously not offering anything near that in advances or royalties, is an out for everyone else with potentially unlimited upward mobility.

So yes, they have the retail market. If they choose to publish and market the hell out of an unknown title it absolutely could be an overwhelming success. Is that really different than any other publishing house, though?

You could argue that their barrier to entry is a bit lower because they own two arms of the chain and can more quickly cut their losses if it doesn’t work out, but really wouldn’t it have been the same if Penguin, Simon, or Harper had picked it up? They’d have marketed the hell out of it just like Amazon.

I guess my point is that, just like any industry, there are times where a potential winner isn’t picked up by a major league team and then wins big for an underdog. I just don’t see how Amazon being the “underdog” is relevant here other than being Amazon.


Amazon can advertise for free though on their own platform, unlike other publishers. Since Amazon is basically the only place anyone buys books anymore, that's huge.

Barnes & Noble just closed here. There's no dedicated book store within 50 miles of me now. I suspect many who don't live in major cities are in a similar situation and probably have been for some time now.


Is it really free for them if such displaces promotions by others?


It's not free, but it's much cheaper than the cost a normal publisher would spend to get the same exposure.


How is it cheaper? If Amazon has to decide to promote item A instead of the next Kindle reader or some other product, there’s certainly an opportunity cost. To blanketly state it absolutely costs less is too naive and merely an assumption.


How? If a publisher was ready to pay X amount of dollars to gain that level of exposure on amazon.com, and Amazon chose to forfeit that revenue, the “cost” to them was exactly X dollars.


Since Amazon is basically the only place anyone buys books anymore, that's huge.

I don't know where you get that incorrect notion from: https://whyy.org/articles/independent-bookstores-are-coming-...


Is that relevant by volume? You can often make money as a small player even when there is a monopoly player in your space. You just can’t make money as another large player.

Which is the point here: we’re talking about what other large, conglomerate players, who own both publishing houses and bookstore chains, could do. But there aren’t any.


I have not bought a book from Amazon in years... I go elsewhere for books nowadays. I'm one data point, but I have a close friend who works for an online book marketplace and they're doing extremely well.


May I ask which marketplace do you buy your books from?


Alibris


Such closures have also been happening in many major U.S. cities for over a decade. And while I've yet to see any numbers, it looks like over 3/4 of used bookstores have folded based on where I live. Very sad development.


Nonfiction author here.

Some potential advantages Amazon may have over other traditional publishers:

Massive amount of data and high-powered data science. Can help inform decisions about what to buy, how much of an advance to pay, etc.

Large coffers. Can take more risks in what to buy and make competitive bids.

Priority of placement. Amazon the retailer gets a cut of every sale. Amazon the publisher gets another. Clearly, it makes sense to prioritize Amazon's own titles against similar titles from other publishers, unless sales of the non-Amazon title are expected to be substantially higher.

A couple of disadvantages:

Agents are wary. They know that cooperating with Amazon is going to threaten the health of every other publisher.

At least in the short term, authors are going to perceive having Amazon as a publisher as having less cachet. It's largely known for its self-publishing arm, and authors aren't going to want their books to be misperceived as having been self-published, where quality is pretty abysmal.

Don't expect your book to end up in brick-and-mortar bookstores.


Why is this a link to another Reddit/HN looking site than the article itself?


If I had to guess, it has to do with the WSJ paywall, as the original article received no upvotes https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18957737


I run that site: it’s focused on books—a hacker news of books sorts. Of course HN is a much bigger assembly...


Original question still stands, why is that the url linked and not the actual article? The fact that you run the site makes it worse, as this is blatant self promotion masquerading as a real post.


The discussion on this thread started due to the discussion on the link that is shared. I could have added this fact on my response earlier, but I thought it was obvious.


I had a look..nice! I missed mention of its launch on here, about a month ago? Good luck with that!


Thank you!


Perhaps this is because I've only ever heard about Amazon's march into publishing through interviews of authors and competitors, but the narrative I've picked up seems to revolve around Amazon actually being a terrible publisher. By which I mean you basically never know what you're buying if you're a reader, and they aren't spending a dime to edit or promote you if you're an author. (Not that publishers do those two things much either of late, but that's a different story.)

I suppose that's fine when you've a track record as an author. It probably isn't if you're a new author.

Any odds there are some authors around who can chime in?


Are they paying advances? If not, and they are not promoting you either, why would anyone sign with them? You could just self publish and if you don't have the money to have a bunch of books printed, you could just use one of the many print in demand services (including the one offered by Amazon).

Edit: It seems that they are paying authors for their books, which for many authors, is a good enough reason to use them as a publisher. Who cares what the other big publishers could/would do for you if none of them will pick up your book.


I don't know if they’re a terrible publisher, and honestly I’ve never written a book.

I downloaded a picture book for my son that was Amazon published.

I remember this because it was free on prime day and it was one of the huge banners on their page that worked even when the site wasn’t working. So they do advertise the books they publish.


Good, now maybe they can fix the textbook industry which is woefully inept.


Not that there is an incentive for Amazon’s to be or remain efficient though!


The real link would be this one: https://www.wsj.com/articles/they-own-the-system-amazon-rewr...

Here is the outline'd version: https://outline.com/Km9vL4


Was thinking there would be more about using their data.

They could make some predictions of the form {author, subject, language, etc} -> likely sales.

From there they could make a sensible guess as to the advance to offer the author.

And of course authors could throw their proposals in the machine and get an offer.

I suppose something like this must already exist?


Reminds me of a cartoon I once saw (in the window of Gleebooks in Sydney) - a publisher in an extravagant office saying to a humble author "Give me a novel of 200,000 words that oversteps the bounds of common decency." (something like that, can't find it online now)


They always supported self publishing with CreateSpace. Not sure what changed? Did they start doing Marketing/sales for the books? Article is not readable without login it seems.




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