By Steve Windwalker
|Amazon's website 1.0, Aug. 1995|
Editor, Kindle Nation Daily
It will come as no surprise to long-time readers that, fairly consistently over the past two years, I have been saying something shocking and outrageous. My crazy notion first started cropping up in a Kindle Nation Daily postback on February 3, 2011.
The big story is that in just three years Amazon has positioned itself to triple its overall share of the U.S. book business for all formats. Before the end of 2012, Amazon could own more than half of the U.S. book business across all formats.
How stunning a development would that be? Prior to the launch of the Kindle in 2007, Amazon was widely considered to account, at most, for somewhere around 15 percent of all U.S. book sales in all formats by all retailers.
There were plenty of people who were willing then to tell me I was nuts, or that it didn't matter anyway because Amazon's pricing was going to continue to drive the company toward, or right into, red ink. (Indeed, that red-ink thing happened in Amazon's lastquarterly financial report, and the company says it could lose as much as nearly another half-billion dollars in its own guidance for the 2012 4th quarter on which its will report later this month.) And apparently my critics talked some sense into me, because more recently I have been projecting that Amazon was more likely to reach that 50% market share threshold in late 2013 or 2014.
So, it has probably not happened yet, and let's give or take a year or so, please. After all, what would be amazing about this kind of development would have nothing to do with it being predicted (by me or anyone else), and nothing to do with it happening in any given specific month. (But since we all like to keep score, if it does happen by early 2014 I'd like to apply futurist Ray Kurzweil's rule and call this prediction "essentially correct.")
The amazing thing would be that, in three waves of about half a dozen years each, Amazon would have completed a total transformation of the U.S. publishing and bookselling business. (Only the third wave, of course, has been strictly about ebooks.) And for better or worse, that transformation is a game-changer in every sector of publishing and bookselling activity including, of course, the activities of authors and readers.
The enthusiasm with which publishing industry pundits seek out data suggesting that "ebook sales growth is slowing down" make it unlikely that we will hear any announcement from within the industry when Amazon reaches that 50% threshold, but one of the smartest and most articulate inside observers of the publishing industry -- consultant, author and blogger Mike Shatzkin -- shared some data this week from which it is interesting to make some extrapolations, even with the caveat that Shatzkin's information is anecdotal, based on "an exercise" that he tried earlier this month "of asking a few agents for their impressions of the evolving ebook marketplace."
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