It seems Amazon is always in the news, and that makes sense. It’s a giant company with a huge reach. For this post, I’m going to focus on the non-book items of Amazon. Some of it is related to indie publishing, and some of it is just plain interesting.
First up, a writer on Gizmodo tried to block Amazon from here life, and found it was impossible. This is because in addition to an online store (and some retail stores), Amazon also has AWS, which many companies use for their sites and businesses. The author, Kashmir Hill, took a break from Amazon for a week, and found it difficult to communicate in some cases (Slack, Signal, and other platforms use Amazon). She wrote of her experiment:
Ultimately, I learn that it’s simply not an option to block Amazon permanently. It’s technically impossible given the use of CDNs, and even if we could come up with a perfect block, it would wall me off from too many crucial services and key websites that I can’t function without for both personal and professional reasons. (To be totally honest, I just like watching television shows on demand too damn much.) I can’t give up Amazon completely, but it seems like there are other people and companies out there that should be trying very hard to do so.
That leads me to Quartz’s article that Amazon is everywhere, and companies keep talking about Amazon. It comes in conversation as business partners, as competitors, and as a potential threat. According to Recode, some companies are now cutting ties with Amazon to avoid giving in to certain demands:
Over the past few months, Amazon has applied intense pressure to consumer brands across different product categories — seizing more control over what, where and how they can sell their goods on the so-called everything store, these people say.
It’ll be interesting to see how things go. By the way, if you’re interested in reading more about Amazon regularly, I recommend subscribing to Tim Carmody’s Amazon Chronicles. It’s a weekly newsletter, and you can choose to pay or get it for free.
One more interesting item before moving on to Amazon and books. According to Reuters, Amazon apparently recently stopped using a “secret recruiting tool that showed bias against women.” It’s a good article about how designing for automation is important, and that the information that you feed to AI tools (for machine learning) greatly influences its output.
On the book side of things, a recent Authors Guild report said that Amazon was the reason that author incomes have decreased. Not surprisingly, Amazon responded, saying the conclusions were flawed, according to The Guardian. Either way, it seems it can be difficult for the majority of authors to earn a full time income writing books.
That said, there are more ways for writers to expand their revenue streams. A lot of blogs cite a combination of print, ebooks, and audiobooks, as well as translations. Another interesting avenue to explore is Amazon Alexa Skills. Skills are like mini apps, and there are many out there that are storytelling skills, allowing people to choose their own adventure in various storylines. Anyone can develop an Alexa Skill, and yes there is a bit of a learning curve (and yes if you want to do it from scratch, you’ll need to know some code). However, Amazon provides an Alexa Design Guide, and resources to easily create skills.
Since I started exploring this avenue, I’ve gotten a series of emails with tips, including other sites I can work with to easily build a skill (it promises drag and drop easy). Once I have a better idea of the stories and skills I want to develop, I can then publish and monetize. As far as I know, Alexa is the only device where anyone can build skills/apps, but I may be wrong.
If you know of other possibilities (Google Home, Facebook Portal, etc.), let me know in the comments!