Making money out of publishing

In almost every conversation I have with fellow publishers at the moment it seems the issue of Amazon comes up. By ‘issue’ I mean the fact that Amazon has become, for most publishers, the dominant customer account and it doesn’t flinch from using its muscle.

These conversations form a subset of conversations on a general theme, namely the power of large corporations in the publishing and knowledge management industry. With scientific or scholarly authors, the complaint is most likely to be about Elsevier. And in the textbook world, companies such as Pearson might come into the line of fire.

Common to these conversations are likely to be claims concerning: (1) monopoly power; (2) tax avoidance; and (3) super-profits.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to attempt to deal with all these claims now! That would call for a very long analysis. Rather here I’d like to articulate one response to all three.

If one really believes in the above claims – not everyone does (there’s a certain amount of rhetoric around), but clearly some commentators do speak out of conviction) – it seems to me the obvious thing to do is invest in the companies concerned. If you feel that their shareholders are gaining at your expense, become a shareholder.

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