The mighty river

October 23, 2006

Another week, another interesting piece in the Times, which claims e-retailing, with as its core exponent, is growing by 25-30% per year, expecting to make out at £10.3 billion when eBay, Tesco and the rest are all counted up. This is balanced by the slightly bizarre claim that “the market share of internet retailing [could be capped] at about 10%,” due to concerns about “after-sales service, a high rate of product return, and the pressure to make websites a more exciting experience for consumers.” In fact, these concerns (the first two at least) only really apply to electrical goods: the traditional big catalogue sellers – books, clothes, and increasingly food – are already inured to such problems.

As Amazon’s market share creeps over 20% – and Waterstone’s belatedly separates out its online retailing – the likelihood of Amazon entering the publishing business grows ever stronger. Such a move would allow them to hand-pick big authors for exclusive deals, and provide a home for the thousands – nay, millions – of unpublished authors desperate to get their books out but wary of the stigma of self-publishing: the real ‘long tail’ of the book industry. BookSurge is the start of this – ebooks must be the next stage.

Then again, they have to beat off IBM first.

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