In any artistic medium there are two positions of power. The content creators and those who control the distribution channels.
The studios in Hollywood are such a force to be reckoned with because they often manage to be both, sort of. Because they control a third piece that is integral to the process and historically powerless–the production of the content.
Movies and tv shows have to get made and production is responsible for that transformation from script to finished product. They’re the hardest working, the least appreciated, absolutely necessary and yet essentially powerless.
The studios, by controlling production become a content creator. They still relies on the prime content creators who actually come up with ideas and write stories.
And because the studios own the tv networks and have deals with the theater chains, they have for the past century controlled the distribution channels for an entire industry.
It’s smart business. But there’s also a lot in turmoil (not just in Hollywood) because everyone thinks the distribution channels are unlocking which will shift the balance of power to the prime content creators.
Especially in books with self-publishing where a quality product can be produced without requiring a massive budget (because in Hollywood you still need a sizable budget to produce equatable quality). But really… really Amazon is just smart enough to position itself like the studios as both producer and distributor.
For all of the ebooks sold using Smashwords, Nook, iBooks and Google Books, I think it’s a safe bet that most self-published authors publish to Kindle first and then also to one or more of the others.
Want to self-publish a physical book? Print on demand is a great option for a lot of authors and Amazon offers that too (as does Barnes & Noble).
You may also consider an audio version of your book. ACX will help you connect with producers and actors to get a professional audiobook you can then distribute via Amazon and iTunes. And, yes, it’s another Amazon platform.
It’s smart business. Because the studio system has worked for years in Hollywood there’s no reason it shouldn’t also work in the publishing industry. But what it means is that the power shift in the publishing industry isn’t really a shift from distributor to content creator it’s a new player in production.
And if the big 5 recognized that, they could adapt to this new landscape in different ways; find a way to transform themselves from a distribution company into a studio.