Thu-Huong Ha, writing for Quartz: Amazon's power in books extends way beyond its ability to sell them super cheap and super fast. This year, a little over 40% of the print books sold in the US moved through the site, according to estimates from Bookstat, which tracks US online book retail. (NPD, which tracks 85% of US trade print sales, declined to provide data broken out by retailer.) In the US, Amazon dominates ebook sales and hosts hundreds of thousands of self-published ebooks on its platforms, many exclusively. It looms over the audiobook scene, in retail as well as production, and is one of the biggest marketplaces for used books in the US. Amazon also makes its own books -- more than 1,500 last year.
All that power comes with great data, which Amazon's publishing arm is well positioned to exploit in the interest of making books tailored exactly to what people want -- down to which page characters should meet on or how many lines of dialogue they should exchange. Though Amazon declined to comment specifically on whether it uses data to shape or determine the content of its own books, the company acknowledged that authors are recruited for their past sales (as is common in traditional publishing). "Amazon Publishing titles are thoughtfully acquired by our team -- made up of publishing-industry veterans and long-time Amazonians -- with many factors taken into consideration," says Amazon Publishing publisher Mikyla Bruder, "including the acquiring editor's enthusiasm, the strength of the story, quality of the writing, editorial fit for our list, and author backlist/comparable titles' sales track."
Amazon's Kindle e-reader, first released in 2007, is a data-collection device that doubles as reading material. Kindle knows the minutiae of how people read: what they highlight, the fonts they prefer, where in a book they lose interest, what kind of books they finish quickly, and which books gets skimmed rather than read all the way through. A year after the Kindle came out, Amazon acquired Audible. Audiobooks have been a rare bright spot in the publishing industry, with double-digit growth in total sales for the past few years. Audible now touts itself as the "world's largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment," and its site has around 450,000 audio programs.
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