Here’s the thing: Publishers have for decades allowed Amazon to so dominate the market that it can, and does, call the shots. If and when Amazon decides Audible and the Kindle Store will offer unlimited streaming across all its titles, what exactly will publishers do?
Publishers and sellers have just been told that the UK’s The Book Depository, owned by Amazon since 2011, will close on 26 April.
As is usual with Amazon, reasons are not given beyond the standard “hard times are here” spiel from CEO Andy Jassy.
We can assume Amazon will meet its contractual obligations and staff will be paid compensation beyond the three weeks notice they are getting, but there are no warm words about finding alternative placements within the company. Most, if not all, Book Depository employees, are out of a job.
But of course the repercussions go beyond the immediate employees.
Countless sellers, publishers and authors rely on The Book Depository as part of their revenue streams. They have three weeks to make alternative arrangements.
Most significantly, but in line with Amazon policy, The Book Depository will simply cease to exist. Amazon, understandably, does not sell on its shuttered operations, which might open the prospect of a new owner doing better than Amazon itself had done.
So RIP The Book Depository.
The bigger question remaining, however, is what will be next. Jassy has already made clear the books side of the business was at high risk. But which parts are safe?
We might reasonably assume APub, the Kindle Store, Kindle Unlimited, Audible and the online book sales will survive the cull, but one might have said that about Amazon’s chain of bricks & mortar bookstores too, right up until the day Amazon declared they would close.
Abe Books must now be considered at high risk. And if Amazon is losing interest in books, as clearly it is, does it really need ACX to supplement Audible? Does Goodreads have a future?
Nor should we complacently assume the likely survivors like the Kindle Store and Audible will continue unchanged. There are plenty of ways for Amazon to increase its margins in the digital books sector.
We are already seeing Audible running ads in some of its audiobooks. A cut in royalty cuts for Audible and Kindle titles is a logical next step, and extending that line of thought, something TNPS has long postulated – why not make Audible and/or the Kindle Store unlimited streaming only?
As TNPS explored in 2021, Audible has already begun the inexorable shift to unlimited subscription, with Audible Plus in the US, UK, Australia, India and France.
Here’s the thing: Publishers have for decades allowed Amazon to so dominate the market that it can, and does, call the shots.
If and when Amazon decides Audible and the Kindle Store will offer unlimited streaming across all its titles, what exactly will publishers do?
PRH under the now-departed Markus Dohle famously pulled all PRH titles from unlimited subscription, but that sort of posturing was easy when it only involved a handful of small streaming services.
If and when Amazon goes down that route, as it must in audio if it wants to hold its own against Spotify and Storytel at home, publishers will squeal like pigs on sticks, but then accept the new normal, knowing they themselves created the conditions for Amazon to dictate terms.