It seems like in the past few weeks, Amazon has constantly been in the news. It certainly begs the question whether ‘all publicity is good publicity’. Especially in the publishing industry, Amazon has become a dirty word. For the last two weeks, The Independent’s article, ‘Amazon is ‘destroying’ publishing industry’, has been doing the rounds in publishing circles – and being endlessly debated.
We petition you, Amazon!
The industry giant’s reputation has been further sullied since Frances and Kieth Smith launched their online petition calling for Amazon to pay more taxes in the UK. They have over 150,000 signatures and have already given it to 10 Downing Street. Their argument is that if local booksellers should have to pay taxes, it gives Amazon an unfair advantage. I can totally see the point. However, I have to appreciate anyone who takes advantages of loopholes.
To add insult to injury, Amazon has also tried to patent a service allowing customers to re-sell their ‘used’ ebooks. As you can imagine, the publishing industry has given an indignant cry of ‘Unfair!’ It could potentially rob authors and publishers of a lot of money. But hold up people, calm down a minute. Do you really think the courts will let this fly? Be serious! Amazon are just being cheeky fuckers. Stress less!
In fact, the German courts have already weighed in on the matter and said that it’s nonsense. Similar things have happened in the music world too.
Consumable media is no longer a product – it’s a service
All this whining does bring up some interesting issues. It seems to me that we are being too slow to respond to the rapidly changing digital landscape. This especially applies to the publishing industry.
Musicians now make most of their money through touring. They get little to nothing from Spotify plays (Spotify pays the label, not the artist) or other Internet radio sites (like Last.fm or Pandora), and there are much fewer physical sales, and declining digital sales in favour of streaming services. (Of course, then you have me – hoarder that I am, and lover of all things physical. I must have CDs for my collection!) So touring, merchandise, and other projects are how they make money (Is Justin Timerberlake more of an actor than musician now? That must be where the money is!).
Music has become a service. Films are headed that way too (Netflix!). And book publishing? It is just a matter of time.
It’s not all bad
I have been frustrated with television for a long time. That’s not to say that I don’t like tv shows – I love them. But watching free-to-air or some kind of satellite/cable service irritates me. Especially the paid-for services. If I want to watch the Disney Channel (yes, I’m 25 and love the Disney Channel, get over it), I have to buy a massive pack of channels, most of which I will never ever watch. Why should I have to pay for all of them? What if I only wanted to buy HBO, Showtime, Disney, and Cartoon Network? Why can’t I customize my purchase to that level?
Amazon, on the back of Lovefilm, is addressing just this issue with its new pilots scheme. And it has been successful so far (and includes John Goodman – how can you not love that?!). There’s also a Zombieland pilot, based on the film of the same name. Industry critics think this is just a gimmick and that it won’t change the tv landscape. I disagree. It is what the users want. We want to pay for the shows we actually want to watch, not an entire channel just for the one good show.
I’m excited to see what comes out of the Amazon pilots scheme. What do you think?