Recent posts here on the EBUK blog have triggered a mixed reaction. Among the dozen or so who contacted us directly yesterday a few were getting the impression we are anti-Amazon, while the majority were pleased to see the debate being opened up.
Anti-Amazon? One problem seems to be that we’ve recently increased the posting schedule to keep things topical, and have had a run of stories that some have seen as attacking Amazon.
Well, we certainly don’t sweep under the carpet issues on the international ebook scene that will effect indie author prospects. Pretending that Amazon is the only show in town and can meet all your global needs simply isn’t an option.
The whole point of the EBUK Project is to provide a resource centre for indie authors who want to reach out globally and become truly international bestsellers.
To that end we have on the one hand the blog and associated resources (a new site will be live soon with a lot of extras coming on-line) aimed directly at indie authors wanting to go global, and on the other hand the readers’ newsletters aimed at helping authors reach buyers in those new markets.
None of that can be effective by ignoring the downsides of the various retailers, whoever they are, Nor in pretending the changes happening in the international ebook markets will somehow not affect us. Fore-warned is fore-armed.
We’re committed to playing a small role in building a healthy international ebook market where readers and authors alike have multiple retailers and other outlets to choose from and can reach all parts of the globe.
We’ve been pretty scathing about Kobo’s disappointing launch in India, the absolute farce that is Kobo UK without indie access to W H Smith, and the on-going mess that is Kobo distribution to partner stores in Australia and New Zealand, and we will be coming back on all these issues again and again.
Yes, we’ve noted that Amazon’s global plans seem to have ground to a halt, but we’ve also said exactly the same about Apple and Kobo, while citing Google Play as the most promising international player for the rest of this decade. That doesn’t make us pro-Google, anti-Apple or anti-Kobo, yet it seems it does make us anti-Amazon.
We’ve said time and time again that Amazon is the most important player in most of the English-speaking markets right now and an essential place to be for all indies. But we’ve also made clear its limitations – the many regions Amazon doesn’t serve at all, or surcharges – and how indies can circumvent those problems through other retailers.
We’ve made clear that, while ebook retail is still the most important part of the ebook market right now, it is just one part, and that indies are missing out on wonderful opportunities by ignoring the trend towards ebook subscription services and digital libraries, which we believe will in time usurp the central role of the retailers.
If it’s anti-Amazon to discuss ebook subscription services and digital libraries beyond Amazon’s remit then so be it, but it’s a pretty lame definition.
Market fragmentation seems to have a lot of people confused, so let’s spell it out here.
When we talk about market fragmentation and falling Amazon market share this is not anti-Amazon. Falling market share does not necessarily mean Amazon is losing sales. Often its just the opposite.
The ebook market is going to get bigger and bigger, at home and abroad, and Amazon’s sales will get bigger and bigger too. But so will sales on other retailers. It’s a win-win situation if you are getting your titles out on all platforms.
But Amazon’s market share will still be falling. How can that be? Here’s the paint-by-by-numbers explanation.
For the sake of argument let’s say there are 100 ebook sales happening and Amazon is getting 65 of them (as per the Forbes report – 65%) then 35 are happening on other platforms. Amazon here has 65% of the market.
What happens if the total number of sales then doubles to 200, but Amazon only sells 100 of them and the rest are shared between the smaller established retailers and a handful of newcomers?
Suddenlt Amazon’s market share has just fallen from 65% to 50% – but it’s selling more ebooks than before. In fact it’s seen a 35% increase in sales.
The ebook market is going to get bigger and bigger, both at home and abroad, and Amazon’s sales will get bigger and bigger. But so will sales on other retailers, even as percentage market share falls.
In our last report we said we expected Amazon’s UK market share to decline drastically as Tesco Blinkbox and Sainsbury get serious this year. That does not mean we think customers are going to desert Amazon, stick their Kindles in the drawer and go buy from Tesco and Sainsbury instead. Far from it.
What’s going to happen is Tesco and Sainsbury, thanks to their access to literally millions of people who probably have never given a second thought to e-reading before and who for whatever reason are not on Amazon’s radar – are going to embrace digital for the first time, especially when the price wars kick in this summer season.
Many will sign up with Amazon, boosting Amazon’s overall sales, but many more will sign up with Tesco and Sainsbury and some of the smaller UK players like Sony, Waterstone’s and Foyles.
Ebook sales will soar across the board – all platforms will benefit. But market share will be further fragmented and Amazon’s market share will fall even as its sales rise.
At the same time as Amazon’s market share falls, Tesco Blinkbox and Sainsbury market share will increase. One more paint-by-numbers example to make sense of all this.
If Amazon sells 50 out of 100 total ebook sales it has 50% market share. If Sainsbury sells 20 and Tesco on its first day sells 10 then Sainsbury has 20% market share and Tesco 10%.
Supposing in the next week 200 ebooks are sold as more people go digital. Amazon sells 90 of them, and Tesco and Sainsbury sell 50 each.
Amazon has sold almost as many as Tesco and Sainsbury combined, It’s actually seen a staggering 80% increase in sales! But Amazon’s market share has dropped 5% to just 45%.
At the same time Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s market share have increased. Both now have 25% of the market each, which makes them collectively bigger than Amazon but Amazon is still the biggest player by far.
Amazon is a winner. Tesco and Sainsbury are winners. Readers are winners. And if we have our titles in among those sales indies are winners.
Nothing anti-Amazon about falling market-share there if you follow through the logic.
Think about the situation in the US. Amazon’s market share has plummeted (what other word describes a fall from nearly 90% to 65%?) since 2009. But we all know without question that Amazon is selling far, far more ebooks to far, far more readers than it was in 2009.
Amazon is still the biggest player in the US. Period. But its market share is has fallen drastically. Fact.
The two are not mutually exclusive, and it’s not anti-Amazon to talk about falling market share. It’s simple maths.
The point we are making with the constant references to market share is this:
The next generation of readers going digital are taking advantage of a far greater choice of devices and of retailers and other ebooks outlets than existed when Amazon led the way with ebooks in 2009-10. And this is a global phenomenon.
To come back, then, to the last few EBUK posts and put things in context:
For the record, Mark Coker at Smashwords triggered the post about Amazon’s price parity policy, in the wake of the announcement of Sony North America’s imminent closure. We followed up on that because it appeared Mark Coker was unaware the price parity policy was not legal in the UK and EU and had been stopped. And from the feedback we’ve had nor were most indies.
The post on Indonesia and the Far East could not be written without making clear, for indie hoping to sell there, that Amazon blocks downloads to most of the region while Google Play has recently opened a dozen ebook stores there.
KDP has a drop-down list of pretty much every country in the world, including all these Far East countries. No, Amazon doesn’t actually say they will sell ebooks there, but the intimation is clear when you tick world rights and supposedly include every country listed…
Readers come to the EBUK blog for news, views and clues on the global ebook markets. We wouldn’t be upholding our end of the bargain if we left readers mistakenly believing Amazon was covering all the bases. It’s not anti-Amazon to point out said company blocks downloads or surcharges in these countries. It’s simple fact.
The post on Bella Andre signing with Kobo again was reporting a newsworthy incident. Nothing anti-Amazon about it, but it seems reporting good news about Amazon’s rivals is anti-Amazon to some.
The most recent post seems to have raised the most eyebrows, but as we said in our opening words, in reference to the headline “Does Amazon take its customers for granted?”, this is not what we are saying, but was the argument of a respected economist, writing over at Forbes.
The issues raised have a bearing on the future of the Kindle stores and therefore on the future livelihoods of indie authors. This stuff needs to be out in the indie forums and debated, not hidden away because it’s not what we want to hear.
Finally, a reminder that in our daily newsletters for readers every day without fail we lead each listed title with the Amazon links.
We could, if we were anti-Amazon, bury the Amazon US links below the links for B&N, Books-A-Million, Apple, Smashwords, All-Romance, Diesel, Sony, Blio or even our guest indie ebook store Book Soup but no, the Amazon links are right up there at the top.
We could, if we were anti-Amazon, put the Amazon UK links below the links for Waterstone’s, Foyles, etc. We could put the Amazon links below Angus & Robertson and Bookworld for Australian readers, and we could put the Amazon Germany links below the Tolino Alliance store links like Thalia and Hugendubel in the Germany newsletter.
Even when Amazon hasn’t got a local store we still put Amazon at the top. Here’s the South Africa newsletter, with links to local South African stores like Kalahari and Exclus1ves below Amazon’s.
As we made clear yesterday, we are not an affiliate site and do not favour, or disfavour, one retailer over another.
Forthcoming reports include some very favourable pieces on Amazon, not least on Amazon’s Kindle Worlds, which we regard as one of the most outstanding developments for indie authors since KDP was launched.
But for each topic, where there’s a downside to the involvement of any retailer, we’ll report on that too. It’s what we’re here for.