In a move that infuriated many its marketing associates earlier this year, Amazon removed the Kindle from its marketing affiliate program. That means that affiliates who are driving eBook traffic to Amazon are not getting any financial reward for their efforts.
But entrepreneurs love a void, so today eBook publisher Smashwords announced its own program, which allows authors and others to earn commissions of 11 percent or more by linking to the eBook company's growing list of 1,400 titles.
"This is our small attempt to fill a portion of that void," CEO Mark Coker told me in an email from New York, where he speaking at a conference.
In an accompanying press release, he elaborated: "The Smashwords Affiliate Marketing Program will help authors and publishers expand their digital shelf space while providing affiliate marketers the opportunity to profit from the rapid rise of electronic books."
Now, Smashwords is a small player in a crowded field, but one to reason to keep an eye on it and the other emerging eBook publishers is the explosive growth rate of digital books, as documented by the Association of American Publishers. Over the past six years, according to the AAP, eBooks have been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 58 percent, while the overall industry's growth rate stagnated, at 1.6 percent per year.
One feature of the Smashwords affiliates program is that authors and publishers can "juice" the commission their associates earn in order to incentivize the viral marketing of their eBooks. It's possible, for instance, to allow associates to earn much more than the baseline 11 percent, all the way up to 81.5 percent.
Meanwhile, Amazon's introduction of improved models of the Kindle in recent months appears to be triggering a tipping point in eBook adoption. Currently, there are nine platforms for publishing eBooks, most open-source, although Amazon continues to adhere to a proprietary technology for pubishing on the Kindle.