According to Farhad Manjoo’s headline on PandoDaily:
“Nobody Seems to Understand What Jeff Bezos is Doing. Does He?”
Actually, it’s not hard to understand: Amazon is making money.
Let’s be clear: Amazon is not simply giving away The Hunger Games to readers. It’s using the series to create the perfect consumer profile. Which is to say, in order to borrow a free copy of the series (not own, by the way), you have to be the customer Amazon wants you to be.
You have to:
- own a Kindle device (no, not a free app)
- pay for Amazon Prime
- have an Amazon account
If you meet the above criteria, Amazon can estimate how much you can be expected to spend on Amazon. You’re likely to buy more content on your Kindle. You’re likely to buy more products from Amazon if you have Prime. If you have an Amazon account, they already know your spending habits and your marketing profile — a Kindle and Prime simply helps Amazon sharpen its estimation of your worth.
If you can check off all three boxes, Amazon knows what you’re worth to it. And paying a publisher off to give you “free books” is not a loss.
If you’re downloading The Hunger Games for free from the Kindle Lending Library, Amazon will be — if it isn’t already — making money off of you.
It’s marketing. Marketing is everything a seller does to get you to part ways with your money in return for something, as well as to prefer its offering over a competitor’s.
Amazon is a marketing machine — a vast, complex, secret machine. It may be the greatest such machine ever created. Giving away a bestselling series to its most valuable customers is just one peek into that machine.
Perhaps you’re saying “No duh” to all of the above. I agree. But Manjoo doesn’t understand — and he assumes you don’t, either.
(I wrote a bit more about Amazon’s Lending Library here.)