Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Amazon Buys Shelfari

We got back from a short break in Slovakia to the usual pile of email. In among them was an interesting publishing string about Amazon and their market position, digitisation and whether all this was healthy for publishers. Anyone who has read this blog over time will be able to predict our response.

Then today we open up another email to read from the Seattle Post Intelligencer that Amazon has now added its small Seattle neighbour Shelfari to its list of acquisitions.

Amazon has now bought a number of publishing related companies. These include the likes of Booksurge, Brilliance, Audible, Mobibook, ABE and now Shelfari. Couple these with its global market dominance in Internet bookselling and you have a very interesting mix which covers all but front list publishing!

Some may consider that the shrewdest move is the pincher action that they appear to have taken in covering at one end the out of print content with ABE and the self publishing end with Shelfari. When you couple this with their underpinning technology, commerce and distribution platforms you start to see a different animal and one that can certainly change publishing as we know it.

Obviously you have to add the Kindle into the mix and also appreciate their growing and significant internet marketshare and some would say you potentially have a mix to die for.

Shelfari, is the Seattle social networking start-up for book lovers whose main rival is part owned by ABE. Shelfari is a social network that allows groups of people to create virtual bookshelves and share titles with friends. So will Amazon dispose of their stake in LibraryThing or consolidate it further with their new acquisition?

As publishers dabble with social networking and self publishing, Amazon has clearly moved. When the market dithered on audio downloads to Audible and DRM free, Amazon merely swallowed up the company. As self publishing continues to grow, Amazon now gives it a shop window. As inventory and distribution costs continue to climb Amazon takes a clear POD position offering both an alternative to Ingram, but also means for them to acquire digital content and distribution channel for self publishers. As publishers focus on front and experiment with reclaiming out of print, Amazon acquires the main player and information base.

We watch Amazon with both admiration and fear and once again are reminded of that old saying ‘be careful what you wish for.’

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