Amazon, Book Publisher

03/01/2011

This week, Amazon is launching what appears to be a full-fledged publishing imprint, though the company is soft-pedaling its role, positioning itself as a “turn-key” service for publishers called “Powered by Amazon.” The imprint is called The Domino Project, and it is being curated by the marketing guru and author Seth Godin, who is apparently vocal about the need to dispense entirely with the conventional publishing industry. He had a “eureka” moment while blurbing one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, which entailed writing a book of his own in a couple of weeks and then giving it away, against his publisher’s wishes, on his website. Among his twelve best-selling books, this particular book ultimately sold the most copies.

It seems that Godin envisions building a publishing house around this model. Here are, as the press kit puts it, the “Core Tenets of The Domino Project”:

•High quality ideas, packaged with cogency and urgency in mind.
•Permission at the heart of the model.
•Virality first. The most powerful ideas spread from hand to hand, so create
content that works best when spread.
•Speed triumphs. Rapid time to market, evolution, rapid response to reader.

In other words, Godin wants to publish stuff by the already famous or semi-famous, give it away (or sell it really cheaply) in e-book form during a sort of promotional period, and then…well, we don’t know. Make a bunch of money and repeat the process, we suppose.

Will it work? Will it have any impact on the publishing industry generally? Who can say? It’s pretty easy to cast Godin’s strategy as a scaled-down, web-savvy version of blockbuster publishing, where the bestselling become better-selling, only at a lowered price point and with the altered economics of e-publishing allowing for a different distribution of profits.

But we think it’s worth paying attention to The Domino Project, if only because Amazon obviously has a strong incentive to figure out new ways of making book-publishing profitable. The Domino Project may be one effective model. Surely there will be others. Amazon will probably be involved with those, too.