Today was an interesting day for Amazon’s eBook strategy.
On the positive side, new Kindle’s are selling at record rates. As they put it, more “next generation Kindles were ordered in the first four weeks of availability than in the same timeframe following any other Kindle launch, making the new Kindles the fastest-selling ever.” This shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone, as these new Kindles are also the cheapest ever.
What was more newsworthy was the note at the end of the announcement that the U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 670,000 books, including New Releases and 107 of 111 New York Times Best Sellers. Using Google’s calculation that there are nearly 130 million total books ever published, this means that Amazon sells less than 1%.
Don’t get me wrong, over 670,000 is a huge number, but they still have a lot of content acquisition to do.
And why does Amazon not sell 4 books on the New York Times bestseller list? And how did these books get to be bestsellers?!
More interesting than Amazon bragging about Kindle sales however, was the news that their deal with Andrew Wiley’s Odyssey Editions fell through. The Wall Street Journal published a feature about the deal and Wiley’s joint announcement with Random House. It notes that Wiley and Random “have agreed that Random House shall be the exclusive e-book publisher of these titles for those territories in which Random House U.S. controls their rights.”
Publisher’s Marketplace’s take on the situation was that while “Amazon loses their two-year exclusive on the 13 Random House titles issued by Odyssey, as a result of Random House’s broader agreements there will hundreds if not thousands of legacy titles making their way into the marketplace.” Moreover, they pitched the larger story in this segment of the saga that:
Random House has been negotiating agreements for months with most of the major literary agencies on moving forward with ebook publication of successful backlist titles originally acquired before the era of electronic rights language, for which the rights and/or royalties are “in dispute” between the publisher and the rightsholder. The basic terms, as explained to us by multiple agents, provide for a sliding scale of royalties that tops out at 40 percent of net.
And thus ends (for now) Amazon’s attempt to disintermediate the publisher… or at least Random House.