Like many of us in the publishing industry, I have been closely monitoring the recent wave of e-book coverage in the consumer media. We have seen powerful headlines such as “B&N Launches Kindle Killer” (Wall Street Journal) and “Is Amazon Taking Over the Book Business” (Time Magazine) and questions abound: Are we nearing Malcolm Gladwell’s proverbial tipping point? Will e-books sales capture a substantial share of the overall market in the next few years? Are Jeff Bezos and Steve Riggio going to rumble? Possibly.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble certainly continue to move the needle by developing new technologies, engaging new partners and driving consumer awareness. But I would like to offer a slightly less “sexy” story angle. Perhaps this isn’t a race for inter-stellar domination between two massive companies. Perhaps the story is not about one viewer or one “e-book megacenter” as the NY Times so eloquently described it. Perhaps this isn’t even about Amazon or B&N or Google, Apple, Sony or whoever comes next.
In my opinion, this is not an “either/or” proposition. This is about how publishers can learn from each other; how we all benefit from technological advancements; and, what we can discover from the new business models that are currently being tested.
Beyond the technology, the alliances and the giant marketing budgets of Amazon and B&N, the key to success for publishers of all sizes is building platforms that connect them with their end-users in meaningful ways. Publishers need to harness that data and produce strong, lasting consumer relationships. The publishers who best understand their consumers and grasp what they really want will lead the way.
The future is bright for the Davids and the Goliaths.