Amazon isn’t holding anything back right now in a bid to lure readers away from other ecosystems and sign new ones up. The company in the last few months has unveiled a copious amount of new programs to distinguish themselves from the competition.
Kindle First, Kindle Matchbook, Day One, Amazon Smile, Kindle Countdown Deals and a free Kindle Freetime subscription are but a few of the initiatives the Seattle-based company has launched lately. All of these programs work in conjunction with all of the devices that just hit the market and the various reading apps for major operating systems.
It seems every week Amazon launches a new reading program to keep themselves in the media spotlight, and seldom does anyone actually consider the sheer number of new programs Amazon launches or the ramifications of these initiatives.
Amazon has been said to control close to 75% of the eBook market in the US and Canada. The company does this by making commercials, generating headlines, and putting their devices in every single store that will do business with them. They have also been expanding into foreign markets to solidify their dominance.
The majority of the headlines generated by Amazon may seem ground breaking, but are really nothing new. Take the new Kindle First program that sends out a curated list of eBooks a month in advance of their commercial release. Baen Books has been doing this for awhile with eARCs. They do charge more for the early access, with the average price costing $15 vs $9.99. One of the pioneers in the field of early eBook releases is Net Galley, who came on the scene in 2008 right before BookExpo America. Joining is free and offers eBooks from major publishers months in advance to review or to read.
There are only a few major players in the digital book industry and most of them just refine their reading apps or focus on eBook discovery engines. We see lots of Facebook and social media platforms rising up, only to suffer from a lack of user interest. Companies like Kobo focus on their hardware and dedicated reading apps, but keep a low profile in some of the markets when it comes to new programs. Barnes and Noble is in the precarious position of only selling eBooks in the US and UK, which are ultra-competitive markets. With recent management shake ups, the only news to come out of that camp was Google Play hitting the tablets, and that was almost a year ago.
Publishers and online bookstores can learn a lot from Amazon in terms of looking at what the competition is doing and integrating it into their own ecosystems. Most have found, though, that it’s easier to just maintain the status quo than it is to unleash features that their readers would like and help distinguish themselves from a crowded market. It takes time, energy, and research to make this all happen and it is no small wonder that Amazon is cornerstoning the market.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.