If you're an author who has already been shook and sold your soul and firstborn to Jeff Bezos, I can see this seeming like a good short-term deal, but the potential repercussions are huge.
Much like Google didn't disintermediate big ad agencies via AdWords, nor TV networks or Hollywood studios via YouTube, but instead provided new channels for those who had no need for the Super Bowl, Amazon has done the same for authors who are better served with a scalpel than a mallet.
It reminds me of 2003, the year I started blogging, and how some people were able to attract large audiences for their writing, and the mainstream media scoffed that they would ever be taken seriously. Fast-forward, many of those early bloggers are now considered "real" journalists, some because they went to work for traditional media brands, others because they attracted a significant enough audience on their own that they couldn't be ignored.
Not quite one year to the day it was announced, Seth Godin is shutting The Domino Project down, offering the awkward explanation that "it was a project, not a lifelong commitment to being a publisher of books," instead of, perhaps, admitting that publishing is harder than it looks if you want to swim at the deep end of the trade pool in the middle of a dramatic transition, as he obliquely acknowledges in many of his noteworthy takeaways.
In publishing, every day it seems there's a new upstart or three that's going to disintermediate (or even better, KILL!) traditional publishers, but with the exceptions of Open Road Integrated Media and, possibly, Ruckus Media Group -- notably, both are run by major publishing veterans and have partnerships with a variety of "traditional" publishers -- you'd be hard-pressed to name too many others that have had any truly notable impact to match the hype surrounding them.
Basically, Amazon one-upped Barnes & Noble's Read In-Store feature that allows Nook customers to "read NOOK Books FREE for up to one hour per day" in any of their 700+ stores, and put the exact same feature in every Kindle customer's living room via 11,000+ public libraries, without the physical and timing limitations.
Inspired more by friends like Chuck Wendig, Will Hindmarch and Jane Friedman than Joe Konrath, et al, and emboldened by everything I learned from working with Joshua Tallent while running Digital Book World, my goal for the project was two-fold: do enough of it myself to have hands-on experience of what it takes, what's "easy" and what isn't; and to get the monkey of finally publishing this particular book off my back!
Right now, the relative ease of digital publishing -- not yet the equivalent of blogging, but getting closer every week -- and the exceptional successes of a relative handful of authors masks the larger challenges ahead for authors and publishers alike, regardless of their business model: discoverability.
One of Godin's running themes throughout Poke is to be an initiator, and that risking failure is the best road to achieving success, and by making Poke the Box the first offering from The Domino Project, he's practicing what he preaches. He initiated, he shipped, and he pretty much failed to deliver a good book.
I find it somewhat ironic that, at the same time publishers are scrambling to fill ill-advised budget gaps left by their blind co-dependence on Borders, HarperCollins decides to play hardball with the one channel that offers the maximum combination of discoverability and NON-RETURNABILITY.