A modest proposal to combat Amazon (oh and piracy)

My last post on Amazon for a little while, I promise. As previously noted Amazon have cornered the digital marketplace for ebooks, which has the potential to mean the end of booksellers and publishers as we know them. Once Amazon have destroyed the industry infrastructure, there is little doubt they will bring down the 70% royalty rate offered to authors at this time.

Nothing is going to stop writers writing and readers reading. But a future where all writers are under the thumb of one giant technology company is one I would rather not see. There is of course an obvious solution – establish an alternative ebook marketplace. But displacing an incumbent business with a $70 billion turnover is no easy task. Here is my modest suggestion for how it might be achieved.

1. Establish an online digital library. This library has two goals i) to provide a universal library – free to access – of all published texts. ii) To support the livelihood of the writers who create those texts.

2. Any writer may place their texts in the digital library. They agree to make the text freely available to all through the library. In return they receive data on all readers of their book. Library loans are limited to around 2-3 at a time.

3. Texts are sold through the library at prices set by their author. The author receives a 90% royalty on all sales. 10% of all sale revenue is used to support the trust managing the library.

And that’s it. A universal library, a stable market for writers, and a self-sustaining way to limit the disruption of technology companies like Amazon on the development of human knowledge and learning. Oh and it would effectively kill ebook piracy as well. Why not?