I spent last weekend at Love Is Murder, a wonderful mystery/thriller/suspense writer’s conference in Chicago. You’ll probably hear more about it from me once I’ve had a good night’s sleep (or two).
However, one subject that kept coming up was the conflict between Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You’ve seen the articles: Amazon wants to conquer the book world! Monopoly power! B&N won’t sell Amazon’s titles in its stores! Barnes & Noble is the white knight who’ll save the publishing business (three or four years after it was the evil monster running around gobbling up independent bookstores)!
This is a treacherous subject for writers. We all want a vibrant marketplace for books with multiple venues and vendors. And the marketplace is so confusing – one of Amazon’s major strengths this far along was simply that they were the only player with a clear business plan.
So the news today that Amazon is looking into the possibility of opening their own retail stores is fascinating. The stores will reportedly concentrate on Kindles and the books published by Amazon’s own imprints. So all those titles that won’t be sold in your local B&N will have a local retail home – a major relief, I’m sure, to the authors who’ve signed book contracts with Amazon. Or who will be offered one in future.
But if Amazon does more than dip its toes in the water, this would seem to dictate an expansion of the Amazon printing business. If you really expect to drive people to your bookstore, you have to have a decent selection of titles. And doesn’t this move force Amazon to play on almost equal ground – real salespeople, rent, all the expenses the company has avoided thus far?
This could be very good for writers, happily watching powerful retailers duke it out over rival sets of books. Anything that promotes the central role of books and stories in our culture is a blessing, even if the blessing comes draped in a decidedly odd set of clothes.