Amazon’s emergence as a leading book publisher, as well as bookseller, is viewed as a threat to traditional publishing. At the same time, it presents an unprecedented opportunity, not just for budding writers of romance and mystery novels. It also offers non-profit organizations like the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism (CRT) a chance not only to publish books affordably but to promote ideas and reports to millions of Amazon customers.
Amazon is now the biggest seller of books in the world, bringing enormous pressure on traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores that face the challenge of finding ways to increase margins in order to survive. Some haven’t. And those that have are doing so by offering a host of products and services that go beyond book sales.
More recently, the online giant has mushroomed into the role of one of the leading book publishers. Since 2009, when it started publishing print, audio and e-books that can be read online or downloaded, Amazon’s list of publications has risen from 373 to more than 1200; each is produced by one of the company’s 15 imprints and promoted through Amazon apps like Kindle and First Read with monthly notification to a number of potential buyers that the traditional industry can only dream of – ten million customers in all.
Book publishing has traditionally been a low margin, high-risk enterprise in which publishing houses have accepted only a fraction of the manuscripts they receive from authors and agents. Despite this, many accepted books still fail to find an appreciable audience and publishing houses must often rely upon one or two best sellers each year to stay afloat.
But with Amazon, the margins are low and the cost of producing a book minimal when compared to traditional print costs with a high percentage – some 80 percent — of books in categories like romance self-published, meaning the company does not pay the author. The author finances the publishing of his or her manuscript.
This online revolution has created a backlash of criticism among traditional publishing houses. At the same time, Amazon’s low publishing cost, widespread promotion and ease of reader access has provided us the chance to reach a wider audience through self-publishing. Where once the only outlet for such organizations might be an academic press with limited runs and little money for promotion, now organizations like ours can potentially reach a much larger market with little cost. What’s more, once an e-book is published, it stays on Amazon’s list of books indefinitely, giving much greater weight to the ideas and opinions the organization wishes to promulgate.
And we are set to take advantage of this opening. At the moment, we have three e-books in the works, with more on the way.
“Amazon’s entry into publishing repeats the process of creative evolution improving humanity’s well-being which started with the first years of the industrial revolution and the birth of capitalism: enterprise takes a risk to introduce a new technology pioneered by science to change the ways in which we can live,” says Steve Young, Global Executive Director of the CRT.
“But as some Buddhists say, every gain comes with a loss,” he continues. “Those tied to old technologies lose out; their business models are no longer viable; their customers move on to new products and services.”
“For our non-profit enterprise, we see Amazon as an avenue to produce and distribute books at a cost we can afford,” Young says. “We have decided to join in the process of disruption to get good ideas and inspiration to more people all over the world.”