As we clearly see in the Q3 report, Amazon understands and is going all out to exploit AI’s potential. Remember that single reference to books, ebooks and audiobooks? AI is mentioned 33 times in the same document.

Yes, its the quarterly results season, and as usual the industry is falling over itself to report Amazon’s latest operating profits, AWS revenue, and what time of day Andy Jassy breaks wind.

Now of course, we all eagerly look forward to the quarterly NewsCorp results, the Holtzbrinck results, the Bertelsmann results, the Paramount results, the Rakuten results, the Alphabet results, etc, and the publishing industry journals never let us down.

No, hold on, we don’t really care, and nor do they. All we care about is what the publishing-related divisions of these companies are doing. How many in the industry could even name the CEO of Alphabet? Or Holtzbrinck? Or Rakuten? Or NewsCorp? (And no, it’s not Rupert Murdoch).

Which meant, this past year, that Bertelsmann and Paramount got the spotlight because of the Simon & Schuster debacle, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any coverage of Rakuten or Holzbrinck or…

But still we are being told by industry reporters about Amazon’s AWS revenue and its free cash flow and any number of other financial tittle-tattle that tells us precisely nothing about how Amazon is and will impact the publishing industry.

Yet curiously the Amazon Q3 statement on generative AI, something that most certainly will impact our industry, seems not to have been noticed.

From the Q3 report:

The AWS team continues to innovate and deliver at a rapid clip, particularly in generative AI, where the combination of our custom AI chips, Amazon Bedrock being the easiest and most flexible way to build and deploy generative AI applications.”

Further into the report, there’s lots – and I do mean lots – more on what Amazon is doing with AI.

This is stuff that everyone in the publishing industry really should take time out to catch up on, not just because its impressive in its own right, but because is shows just how Luddite much of our industry has become in its race to demonise AI as some sort of threat to our very existence. Many in the industry are unthinkingly riding on the tailcoats of valid concerns about IP infringement, training compensation, creative quality and potential job losses to conjure up a doomsday scenario better suited to tabloid newspaper publishers than book publishers.

Yet IP concerns and training compensation issues are being addressed, sometimes in the courts. There is no existential threat there. Nor is there in creative quality.

As for job losses… Yes, jobs will go. Others will be created. But why is it that when a major publisher like PRH (among many others) lays off employees we all accept this as part of publishing reality, but when even a single job is deemed to be threatened by AI we run about like headless chickens screaming that the sky is falling?

Rather than reporting on Amazon’s Q3 numbers, which we cannot possibly break down into meaningful publishing industry terms (unlike Amazon’s KU numbers, which do offer insights), the trade ought to be worrying why Amazon no longer even feels the need to mention our sector. Not even in reference to Amazon’s own publishing endeavours.

Again, publishing doesn’t get a mention. The words audiobook and ebook occur once each, in reference to subscription, while the nearest we come to the existence of books as products is with the Amazon report on its video sector, where it acknowledges one of its films is based on a novel. That and a passing mention of the Kindle and KDP in a list of historic achievements.

Yes, we can argue rightly that Amazon is now so large that its once core sector is now a sideshow for the company. But for us, the industry that has spent decades feeding the machine, the company is now so central to our operations that we should be deeply concerned. And we certainly cannot rely on the FTC to come to our rescue.

Here’s the thing. Amazon already owns much of the industry’s market, and will not hesitate to own more.

As we clearly see in the Q3 report, Amazon understands and is going all out to exploit AI’s potential. Remember that single reference to books, ebooks and audiobooks? AI is mentioned 33 times in the same document.

But instead of rising to the challenge, our own industry is blowing hot and cold over real and imaginary threats from artificial intelligence, tilting at AI windmills and shying away from actually exploring what AI could be doing for us.

No mention in the Amazon statement as to what Andy Jassy might be planning to use AI for in its APub arm, its Kindle arm, its Audible arm and its book distribution sector, but we can safely assume Amazon is already using AI to great effect, and will miss no opportunity to leverage AI across every sector of its operations. And no, it won’t ask first.

Beware the future. It’s already here.