Amazon Introduces "iTunes for Books"

Amazon has announced an upcoming program called Pages. I think of it as “iTunes for books.” Pages will allow customers to download sections of books, or even individual pages, for a small fee per page.

The specifics (including pricing) have not been announced, but here are some examples of how it might work:

You want a recipe for Chocolate Nut Bread, but don’t want the entire cookbook. You go to Amazon.com and download just that one recipe for $.35.

You need to know how to create forms in Dreamweaver, and the reference book you have doesn’t tell you exactly what you need to know. You find another book on Amazon that has just what you need. You download the chapter on forms for $2.00.

You love one of the short stories in an anthology, but not the rest. You download that one story for $.95.

Would you have purchased the books if the download option had not been available? Maybe, but probably not. This is an opportunity for publishers to increase profits by slicing-and-dicing content to meet the needs of customers. Just as music fans can go to iTunes and buy the one or two songs they like instead of paying for the entire CD, readers will be able to customize their content and get exactly what they want.

Start thinking now about how this will affect the structure of what you write. Could you create a book that works as a whole, but also can be sold in pieces? How does that affect pricing?

Is this a good thing for authors and publishers? I think it is, but it probably doesn’t matter if you or I like the idea. This is where we are headed. If you are a content provider, you can embrace what is coming or you can hide your head in the sand and hope it goes away. The music industry tried that for a while, and it did not work out very well for them. Apple saved them from themselves.

Amazon.com is embracing the future of publishing and content delivery. I plan to be on the ground floor as both a reader and a publisher.