If all goes as expected on Wednesday, we will soon find ourselves in a world of tablets, with the Apple iTablet (or whatever it’s going to be called) joining the market-leading Kindle. The one thing everyone seems fixated on is the effect that these devices are having — or will have — on the book-publishing industry. Amazon’s Kindle is currently the leader in the e-book business, but it’s widely expected that will change soon, thanks to The Great Disruptor of Content Industries, otherwise known as Steve Jobs Inc.
In an attempt to forestall such threats, Amazon last week boosted the royalty rate it pays to authors and publishers who offer e-versions of their books for the Kindle. The new deal gives authors and publishers 70 percent of the price (provided the author/publisher meets certain criteria). That’s twice the previous rate the company was paying, and slightly above the 63-percent rate that Apple is allegedly providing.
Among other things, Amazon is clearly making a play to authors to convince them to go direct, and cut out the publisher middleman. But why stop with books? If Amazon is smart (which it clearly is), the company will use the Kindle as a distribution mechanism for all kinds of digital content — blogs, independent magazines, blooks (blog/books) and any other kind of individually-created media it can get its hands on.
In the same way an author who might have otherwise used a publisher could be tempted to cut a deal with Amazon for Kindle distribution, in return for 70 percent of the royalties, think about any other content creator and how a tablet platform could impact their business: blogger, writer, musician, artist. Just create your own app, and away you go.
If you could strike a deal with Amazon to provide access to your content on the Kindle, that would give you an opportunity to reach your readers/audience directly. Yes, you already have a website, but put your content on a different platform and you can do different things with it — maybe even something people would pay for. Conde Nast says people are buying copies of its magazines through its new iPhone app, so why not a Kindle app? And Apple is already said to be demoing iTablet apps that could do much more.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has his own iPhone app, through which he distributes his Twitter feed, random thoughts and audio clips that feature him saying things like “Wassup” in English and Spanish. It’s a trivial enough application, but what’s to stop anyone from creating their own app? If your content is good enough, why shouldn’t people pay for it just as they have been paying for Conde Nast’s?
Once the iTablet launches, the fight will truly be on between Apple and Amazon: to sign up as many content creators and distributors as possible. The more exclusive relationships a tablet maker has with authors and content creators, the better platform it has to become not just the iPod of books but of all kinds of digital content. And then the disruption of the media and content industries will begin in earnest.