When author Tim Ferriss decided to bypass traditional publishers and release The 4-Hour Chef with Amazon, Barnes & Noble refused to carry the title — eating into the cookbook’s sales. But Ferris told thenextweb.com he would publish with Amazon again, explaining, “I’m not anti-bookstore, I’m pro-reader.” For Ferriss, it came down to Amazon’s ability to give him the data on his customers — who they are, where they’re from, the kinds of books they buy, etc:
The reason I chose to go with Amazon was because I developed a relationship with them over time because of the volume of sales I was pushing through Amazon for the first two books. …Random House, Simon & Schuster, these traditional publishers sell to the head category buyers at a Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million. They do not know their end users, they have no data about their end users, nor do they have any way to communicate with their end users. Amazon, in many ways I would say, knows me better than I know myself just based on my Amazon Prime purchasing behavior as well as what I refer people to through my blog, which they can track of course.
For readers, Amazon‘s leg up over bookstores has come down to convenience; and for writers, Amazon has made itself attractive by offering a level of transparency publishers have only recently begun to emulate with Author Portals that reveal real-time sales. That said, as Ferriss’ example shows, there either needs to be cooperation among Amazon, B&N, and the publishers; or they need to learn from each other to better compete.