Then, last fall, Amazon surprised many by opening a physical bookstore in its home town Seattle.
A new author, for example, might get offered a 10,000 book run. All of the bookstores would be sent copies of the novel, totalling 10,000 copies, and the author hopes they sell. The bookstores are given a time limit, usually about three weeks, and then any books that are unsold are destroyed and sent back to the publisher. If the author had an advance, he can be docked the cost of returned books. If he didn't have an advance, he still knows he likely won't get another contract if the books sold poorly. With this model, the big five establish what books are in stores, and all books are either "make it or break it" novels for an author. If you don't succeed big, you fail, and there's little room in between.
If Amazon does open hundreds of physical bookstores, the entire publishing industry could change. Amazon has publicly stated that its physical bookstore's selections are based entirely off of sales and ratings of books on Amazon.com. A quick look through the online store and many of the bestsellers are NOT published by the big five publishers. Many bestsellers are self-published books offered at Amazon only. If these then become the books seen in physical bookstore chains, how will the big five respond?
In 2012, Houghton Mifflin filed for bankruptcy to help erase debt. The big publishers are facing increasing financial hardhips, and with the oncoming Amazon phyiscal chain, they NEED to shift their focus if they hope to survive. One model that may gain in popularity is Print on Demand, or POD. Many books, including The Scythe Wielder's Secret, are currently offered as POD, and since books are only printed when they're ordered, there are far fewer financial risks. If a national bookstore chain is filled with POD books, will old model publishers even be relevant? Could the big five focus on print on demand publishing, instead of enormous gamble-based runs? Could the older publishers focus on marketing, or other mechanisms not necessarily available to smaller presses, so that they still have something unique to offer? Or will the older publishers crumble, like Borders did? The only thing certain in the publishing industry is that the business is changing rapidly, and the old rules don't necessarily work any more.