Interesting AFP piece yesterday outlining UK publishers’ concerns about both Amazon and Google encroaching on their traditional territory.
The chief executive of HarperCollins U.K., said she feared the online bookseller more than the Web search leader, which has created a stir with plans to digitize every book.
“We all want to talk about Google, but personally I see Amazon as a bigger threat because Amazon has shown a lot of signs that they actually want to move into the publishing space,” said Victoria Barnsley.
She cited Amazon.com’s recruitment of senior executives from the publishing industry and its approaches to book agencies as evidence of the company’s ambition.
“They are moving into the publishing space, and we ought to be very mindful of that,” she said during a panel discussion on the future of publishing at the London Book Fair. HarperCollins is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
“I think we’d argue that Amazon is a real friend to the publishing industry,” a representative for the retailer said when told of Barnsley’s remarks.
He said Amazon had helped boost sales of publishers’ back titles and said its own opt-in scanning project that allows consumers to see inside a book online has helped increase sales of those books by 7 percent in the United States.
This is classic carve-em-up territory. Book publishers have been notoriously slow to embrace the Internet and always seem to act defensively rather than offensively about finding new opportunities. Now Amazon seems poised to create a new publishing model that cuts out the middle man altogether. It’s hard to have any sympathy for publishers – they should have been experimenting with stuff like this years ago to get the model right and work out better, cheaper ways to take on and distribute more titles.