Kobo’s announcement today of their new self-publishing platform called Writing Life shows us the value of real competition in the marketplace and, strangely enough, explains why I don’t think Amazon is the devil for launching its Select program.
Sure, Amazon came out of the gate aggressive with its Select program in that it is the largest ebook retailer and in order to participate, authors had to sell their ebooks exclusively at Amazon for the duration of their enrollment. Heck yes, it was a ballsy move, and it was an attempt to corner the ebook market. And that’s exactly what they should have done. They are competing!
As a result, that means competitors have to step up their game too: offer something better, freer, and more profitable than authors can find at Select. Try to win me as an author. Try to win readers as shoppers. Make me happy to sell at your store or shop there. And Kobo’s announcement is a step in that direction.
Let me explain my take.
First, competition is good for everyone. Competition means everyone is looking for ways to do something or produce something better, faster, and cheaper. What has essentially happened is that Kobo, who is admittedly not nearly the power player that Amazon, Apple, and BN are, has said, “Hey, we think we can deal directly with authors in a better, faster, and cheaper way, and BONUS! We’re not going to require exclusivity or a certain type of computer to do it. Oh, and our search algorithms aren’t going to suck, and you can give your book away free if you want.” That beats the heck out of Amazon Select, BN, and Apple if it all works out right.
A bit of a digression here, but competition isn’t about killing rivals or beating someone. It’s about constantly challenging each other to improve. Okay, I feel better having said that.
Second, freedom is good for everyone. The more choices we have as authors about where and how to sell our books and at what price, the better it is for us and our readers, who will be able to find what they want where they want to buy it.
Now, let me cut through my glee here and say that Kobo’s actual success will depend on a lot of factors, not the least of which is actually implementing the promises of their program and their ability to market their store to readers and help authors market their books to shoppers.
What excites me about this is the opportunity for indie publishing to grow, improve, and change as a result of Kobo’s announcement and those that are likely to come in the future. My hope is that other companies will follow suit, eliminating the need for authors to use third-party distributors, who slow the process unnecessarily and only serve as a distancing agent between writers and readers.
This leaves me with lots of questions:
- How will Amazon, BN, and Apple respond? Will they improve their platforms by making them freer and more profitable, or is Kobo not enough of a power player to warrant their attention yet?
- What about Smashwords? Will they also improve as a result of another vendor going directly to writers?
- And if I give my book away free on Kobo, will Amazon, BN, and Apple match the price? And what will that mean for my algorithms? Will I get the same visibility boost?
To me, this is exciting and fun! Change means new opportunities, and even if this isn’t the be-all-end-all, it’s at least a step in the right direction. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too!