Is Amazon The New Self-Publish Kingpin?

While some in the e-book world have pointed to the iPad as the inevitable Kindle-killer, one rival e-book strategy is proving to be a pretty robust competitive weapon to Apple’s Swiss Army knife-like device. Amazon’s three-pronged hardware, software and easy-publish approach has helped the company sell out of its third-generation device and maintain the lead in e-book sales.

To no one’s surprise, Amazon itself has said as much, claiming 75 percent of the e-book market. Sure, lack of good data (in particular from Amazon itself) has made more than a few shake their heads in dismissal of such claims, but new numbers from fiction writer and e-book pioneer Joe Konrath may yet prove Amazon’s case.

In a recent post on his well-trafficked blog, Konrath lays out his sale numbers in surprising detail and, in the end, says Amazon is the making up the bulk of his e-book sales. In the post, Konrath points out that he’s put his e-books on all and every platform, from iPad, Kobo and iTunes to Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

What does the distribution of Konrath’s e-books look like?

chart

Breaking the numbers down, Apple’s share of Konrath’s e-book sales makes up less than 1 percent of the overall total of sales. The rest of his sales outside of Amazon (which include totals from publishers Hyperion and Grand Central, where it’s unclear what percentage was sold through Amazon, Apple or another e-book storefront) make up another 24 percent.

But the big one? Amazon, at 76 percent. And that’s all self-published by Konrath.

Really, that’s the big story here. Konrath, who has a long history of working with established print publishers who have also sold his novels in e-book format, is making a nice living for himself by publishing his own works through Amazon.

This naturally begs the question: Is the future of publishing actually one of self-publishing, where established authors like Konrath strike out on their own and sell direct to consumers?

Quite possibly yes. But as many in the publishing world will rush to tell you, Konrath himself is a product of Big Publishing, having first established himself through well-known print publishers such as Hyperion. He is now essentially competing with those same publishers with new e-book titles sold through Amazon’s Kindle bookstore.

But in many ways, that’s besides the point. Sure, Konrath rode on the back of Big Publishing to establish a following, but that simple fact that he can self-publish so easily and actually make much more money has created what many see as a revolution among established authors who see the potential to control their own destiny (and make more money while their at it).

If there is a revolution under way, will Amazon be the new weapon of mass destruction that will destroy the traditional publishing model? Perhaps, but there are others, like Smashwords, that are providing competitive tools for authors — both established and new — to go direct to market.

No doubt Apple will likely see its share of the e-book market — including self-published works by established authors — go up, and there are other competitive threats on the horizon to Amazon. But as we’ve seen this year, Amazon will do pretty much all it can to hold onto its e-book dominance, including finding new ways for authors to stick it to big publishers and continue the revolution.

Related Research: As E-book Sales Grow, So Does Disintermediation

Question of the week

Will Amazon, along with authors like Joe Konrath, revolutionize the model of book publishing?
Relevant analyst in iPad
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6 Comments Subscribers to comment

  1. Do you think that musical recording artists could do like Konrath? That is record their own works and sell them as downloads at Amazon.com or iTunes.

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    1. I am not too familiar with the music publishing terms for iTunes, but I think you probably need an established record label to get onto iTunes music store, and probably the same for Amazon. iTunes is pretty forgiving on their podcast publishing terms, however, and that’s where you see alot of grassroots content producers (though not necessarily music) putting content.

      Amazon’s ebook publishing process is very easy and allows writers to set pretty much all the terms for price, etc. I don’t think you’ll ever see a music store from Amazon or Apple with nearly as friendly and easy publishing terms as you see with Amazon today for its Kindle bookstore.

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      1. Actually it’s pretty easy for an independent artist to get into the iTunes and AmazonMP3 stores without establishing a direct relationship with either Apple or Amazon. There are distributors such as TuneCore and CDBaby that charge artists a one-time flat fee, an annual renewal, and/or a cut of sales, in exchange for distributing music to various online stores (and sometimes subscription services). It can be a very good deal for a self-publishing artist, although it’s still mostly a long-tail thing.

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      2. I knew I should have just said “ask Paul Bonanos” :)

        Thanks Paul for the info! Very helpful.

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