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."
Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.