This isn’t going to come as much of a surprise to most of you as the notion of “walled garden” on the Net isn’t new. But I ran into an example yesterday that, while it didn’t surprise me, pissed me off and got me thinking again.
While doing some basic research on ebooks at Amazon, I noticed a trend that caught my immediate attention. My Container Gardening ebook had slipped in the visible rankings to the very bottom of the second page from high on the first page. All ebooks above it, except one, were signed up for KDP Select. This is Amazon’s programme that gives you some promotional abilities in exchange for giving Amazon exclusivity of sales. I also checked the sales ranks of about half of those books and every one I checked was worse than my container book (except for that one ahead of me that wasn’t KDP). As far as I could see, my ebook was downgraded because I wasn’t an Amazon KDP Select member.
Bottom line – Amazon was saying, if you don’t give us exclusive rights, if you sell your books outside of our walled garden, we won’t rank you as highly. Amazon will give “bonus points” in their algorithms to KDP enrolled books.
The first thing I did was start to look at the sales numbers for the other retail channels – iBooks, B&N, and Nook are the other three of any consequence. Together they account for somewhere around 10-15% of my sales numbers but not one of them is even close to being critical to my income.
There would appear to be several big questions here. The most obvious is how will slipping in the rankings hurt my sales? (big time!) The second is will implementing this system across the board (it doesn’t appear to be yet) hurt Amazon’s sales? My guess is they’re testing these things out now (Amazon is one of the Net’s biggest site analyzer/testers).
But frankly, as long as the ebooks on the top of the list get decent reviews and sell reasonably well, then Amazon has no reason to put anybody’s book on top of the list. And if they decide to reward their author or publisher partners with this kind of service, it’s well within their rights to do so.
It’s not a great development for writers, for readers using other e-readers, for publishers or other retailers but when the big dawg barks, you have to pay attention.
Update: 24 hours later those results are still in play but other searches are not showing this result. So either the test is running a long time or I’m missing something (either is possible). But it’s a wake up call to what could indeed happen.