Pssst, Buddy, Wanna Buy a Kindle?

Never mind that Amazon continues to be sold out of Kindles (as of this writing), and that the process for getting content into the Kindle still leaves a bit to be desired, amid a recent email from Amazon was this interesting item:

Earn a 10% revenue share on Kindle content and Kindle devices purchased through Amazon Associates links on your site — with Kindle priced at $399 you earn $39.90 on each Kindle purchase you refer.

Amazon’s affiliate program is nothing new, but offering 10% on such a high-priced item for referring even just one is worth noting (the 10% rate is only also offered for mp3 and Unbox downloads, with the latter capped at $1.50).

Publishers should be alarmed about how aggressive Amazon is becoming in pursuing a platform play — or arguably a vertical integration drive. (I suspect there’s folks at Amazon viewing today’s news about Apple passing Wal-Mart as motivational.) Let’s look at three critical trends relevant to the future of publishing:

  1. Ebooks
  2. Print-on-Demand
  3. The ubiquity of mobile devices

Now look more closely at each:

  • Ebooks. This one’s easy: Kindle. Ten percent is a strong incentive, and the more Kindles they sell, the closer they get to becoming the price arbiter for ebooks, and the closer they get to establishing their proprietary format as the standard for ebooks. The goal? Ebooks = Amazon (Kindle + $9.99).
  • Print-on-Demand. The cost and quality are on a predictable trend toward parity with traditional offset printing. The economics are already heavily in favor of POD for long-tail titles, and Amazon is now maneuvering to capture as big a chunk of the value in that tail for themselves as they can get. The goals? POD = Amazon (BooksSurge). (However, today’s announcement from Ingram and On-Demand Books underscores a critical Amazon weakness around POD: one of the most attractive benefits of POD is that readers can have a book printed right in front of them, with no need to wait for shipping.)
  • Mobile. Their new TextPayIt program is an acknowledgement that mobile payment is coming (they’re not the only ones to notice), and a way to avoid dealing with any intermediaries. The goal? Buying on-the-go for later use = Amazon.

These are some bright, blinking dots that publishers (and retailers, and distributors, and authors …) need to connect. And perhaps more importantly, as Michael Cairns suggests on PersonaNonData, figure out how to respond:

Publishers can do the same kind of thing to distinguish themselves and their authors in the minds of consumers while also establishing more balance in the relationship between producer and retailer. Change is certainly on the horizon but whether publishers move fast enough is the question.

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