Amazon Monopoly • 6 January 2011 • The SnowBlog
The Amazon.com Kindle Store boasts "775,000 ebooks, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and popular games & active content". I'm not sure quite how to read that, because I'm much more interested in eBook sales than blogs and games. But Forrester Research have estimated that eBook sales were $1bn, just in the U.S., for 2010 and will be triple that by 2015. They also believe that 50% of recent eBook purchases were from the Kindle store*.
So, does that mean that the Kindle store is turning over half a billion dollars in the States alone? That sounds ludicrously high to me, but what I don't have a problem with accepting would be the idea that Amazon currently dominate the eBook market. It's ridiculously easy, once you're all set up, to buy an eBook from them. When I finished the 2nd Stieg Larsson book at 00:15 on New Year's morning, and realised I'd need to buy the 3rd book straightaway to find out what happened next, I think it's safe to say that I'd have been out of luck if I'd needed a paper copy. But it took less then a minute to find, purchase and start reading Book Three on the Kindle. So the Kindle store has the convenience and the multi-platform reach (I can switch between reading the same Kindle book on my iPad, iPhone, a Mac and a current-generation Kindle reader - and there are other platforms available for devices I don't use). And, most significantly, the Kindle Store has the dominant range. I don't want to have to buy different eBooks from different stores and download them in different formats to run on different devices or apps. I don't want to have to remember I bought this from Kobo, but that's in iBooks. So it's perilously tempting to consider myself a Kindle customer for the foreseeable future. Which is a little bit worrying if you think about it. We're heading towards Amazon having a clear monopoly on eBooks that they could never have achieved in the world of ink-on-paper.
I had an interesting chat with Oli Brooks of CompletelyNovel about this and I wondered aloud whether the web will soon need a Monopoly & Mergers Commission and Anti-Trust Laws - and how such a thing could possibly work. Oli thought the low barriers to entry on the web meant that breaking Amazon's monopoly was still possible with the right innovative technology in a way it might not be in the offline world.
What do you guys think? Are you worried about a world in which eBooks are a huge share of the market and most of that huge share goes through Amazon? Do you think the Amazon monopoly will be a temporary thing? (Or maybe you're still convinced that eBooks are a fad.)
*At least I think that's what they said. The phrasing is a little ambiguous.