Unlike Apple's walled content garden, Amazon is 'building forests'

April 16, 2012

Although Amazon is known for being the go-to site for nearly any must-have item, it is not selling J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter e-books. Instead, it directs shoppers to Rowling's official e-book site, Pottermore. It's a move that Rowling, known for her business savvy, probably demanded from the online retail giant.

While some would say this could be a dent in Amazon's armor, many industry experts disagree, saying that the strategy is actually a hint of Amazon's digital dominance.

"This type of deal making feels indicative of where the Amazon business is heading: a commerce world powered by Amazon," said Michael Miller, CMO of Hyper Marketing. "Unlike Apple's walled garden, Amazon is building forests. Basically the strategy is focused on enablement. So instead of an 'exclusively at Amazon.com,' Amazon now makes money off the referral and potentially on the back-end for the book to be read via Kindle.

"Unlike a single channel acquisition play such as iTunes, Amazon is playing a multi-hand strategy," he said.

More than the book

The Pottermore site sells the first three books in the famous series for $7.99, $9.99 for the rest and $57.54 for the entire series. They come in two languages: English and English, or rather U.K. or U.S. For example, the first book is called the Philosopher's Stone; in the States, it's called the Sorcerer's Stone.

This is an example of an author positioning her content as "special" and somewhat removed from the other reams of content out there, said Doug Stephens, the Retail Prophet.

"Hence the uniquely branded portal through which one buys the book," he said. "Simply having an e-book version is no longer a differentiator. Authors and publishers — especially those of key franchises like Harry Potter — will have to be creative in how they position their digital content, so look for more of this to come."

The way in which people access the books is unique as well. They may download each purchase up to eight times, at no additional cost, meaning a shopper could have a version on her iPad, iPhone and PC and even share copies with her children.

"The approach acknowledges that families no longer pray at the altar of the PC but have multiple devices and multiple content consumers in the home," Stephens said. "Content has to be sold in a cross-platform and shareable manner. Eventually, we won't own books (or any digital content) at all, we'll buy access to them whenever and wherever we want, pulling it from the cloud."

Topics: Consumer Behavior , Customer Experience , Omnichannel / Multichannel , Online Retailing

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