In an interesting, but not entirely unexpected development, Amazon may be using its Computer bestseller list to drive early adopter traffic to the Kindle. I was a bit surprised when I checked the computer bestseller list this morning to discover that it is now topped by the Amazon Daily, an Amazon newsletter that has nothing to do with computer books.
Also appearing as outliers to the computer bestseller list, I saw the Kindle edition of the Onion (#14) and the Kindle edition of the New York Times Latest News (#21). Now, to be certain, non-computer books often show up by accident in the computer book lists, but these errors are usually quickly corrected. It will be interesting to see if these Kindle editions disappear or whether they are a sign of Amazon astroturfing the list in order to promote its new platform.
This is obviously a bit worrisome for publishers, since Amazon has been directly recruiting authors to the Kindle, potentially creating a very uneven playing field. Now obviously, offering digital publishing services to authors is a legitimate thing for Amazon to do, and could be a great business for them and a powerful tool for authors. There’s no divine right for existing middlemen to stay in the middle of the marketplace if they aren’t adding value. But because of Amazon’s place as today’s pre-eminent bookseller, I am hopeful that they will be scrupulous in providing a level playing field for publishers rather than emphasizing products that they publish themselves.
I should note that other retailers, including Barnes & Noble, compete with the publishers they distribute, so this dynamic is nothing new. And because the Kindle is open as a platform to publishers as well as to individual self-published authors, the best way to keep Amazon from using its vertical integration of publishing and retail to steamroller the marketplace is to get on the platform and compete.
In this regard, it’s worth noting that also appearing on the list, at #6, is How to Use the Amazon Kindle for Email & Other Cool Tricks, a legitimate computer book title published by a fast moving independent publisher who’s jumped onto the Kindle opportunity. That’s a wakeup call to all tech publishers to take this new platform seriously.