Amazon Shorts the Also Bought Book Shopping Links with E-Books

This is turning into another one of those Amazon weeks on my blog. The fist thing I noticed at the launch of Amazon Shorts a few weeks ago is that they replaced the E-books tab on their page-top navigation with the Amazon Shorts tab. That didn't strike me as a big deal. Amazon has often dumped out the E-books navigation tab in favor of some seasonal feature, such as textbooks. For anybody who hasn't checked out Amazon Shorts, I should mention that these are original 49 cent E-books by "well known" authors, ranging from fiction thrillers to nonfiction essays. There are currently 65 short works for sale, but their ranking scheme is unique to the Amazon Shorts category so it's impossible to say how they are selling.

This past weekend, Amazon began an experiment with their Also Bought links, which have been one of the most useful book shopping features on their site. In the past, the Also Bought links provided a ranking of which other titles were purchased by shoppers who bought the book featured on the page. If the wisdom of crowds has any currency, this offered shoppers a quick way to choose complimentary books and perhaps reach the minimum dollar amount for free shipping. The top title from the Also Bought list is the default Better Together placement, which features the cover image of the paired title and often includes a discount. However, the Better Together placement can also be purchased as a promotion by co-op advertisers, so the Also Bought list was the only true record of book shoppers’ purchases.

The change Amazon made last weekend is that the Also Bought link now connects to the E-book edition of any title in the list for which an E-book version exists! When Amazon undertakes major experiments like this, they usually revert in less than 24 hours if the results are unsatisfactory, so either nobody is paying attention or Amazon genuinely want to promote the sales of E-books and is sticking with it for a set time regardless of the results. I suppose a third possibility is that the change is a freak software accident that they haven't noticed yet or are working feverishly to reverse, but I have my doubts. Since all of my titles appear on Also Bought lists and most of them exist in E-book editions as well, I have a vested interest in how the experiment affects Amazon shoppers’ habits.

Is it possible that Amazon views their Shorts program as a vital project and they are doing everything they can think of to increase the general acceptance of E-books? It makes sense that Amazon should prefer to sell E-books over paper books; no inventory, shipping or handling to deal with, free or otherwise. The immediate issue for small publishers is that the Also Bought links were automatically generated by the book shopping patterns of the general public, which gave them an even playing field in the increasingly competitive sport of book promotion. Now those publishers with E-book versions of their works may see a sudden drop in paper book sales that robs their titles of the force multiplication effect that high Amazon sales creates through better placement in search results on related phrases. My guess is that the Also Bought lists will revert to the norm at some point as most Amazon changes do. If they don't, it will surely generate some increase in E-Book sales on Amazon, though at the expense of their paper editions.

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