Complementors' engagement in an ecosystem: A study of publishers' e-book offerings on Amazon Kindle

Richard D. Wang, Cameron D. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Research Summary: In ecosystems, tensions between value creation and appropriation can arise when complementors form relationships with a partner that benefits from network effects. While creating value collectively, these relationships strengthen the network effects, which increase the partner's ability to appropriate value. We posit that complementors strategize their product offerings to benefit from the relationship with the partner while preserving bargaining power by keeping relationships with other partners as outside options. We examine book publishers' product portfolios in the Amazon Kindle e-book and the printed book ecosystems. Our results illuminate specific product offering decisions by large publishers that are more protective of the printed book ecosystem and less conducive to Kindle's success. This research adds to the literature on interorganizational relationships, platform ecosystems, and managing digital innovations. Managerial Summary: How do book publishers deal with Amazon? This paper compares book publishers' product offerings on Amazon's Kindle digital platform and in the physical print channel. We find that publishers offer high demand products as e-books on Kindle to benefit from logistics savings. Yet, relative to small publishers, large publishers product decisions that support Kindle less, such as withholding some of their greatest revenue generating books. Such decisions could both limit Kindle's attractiveness to the consumers and preserve the economic viability of the print channel as an outside option. These findings improve our understanding of how companies can leverage their product portfolios to both benefit from digital technology efficiencies and maintain their bargaining power vis-à-vis digital platforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-26
Number of pages24
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • digital innovation
  • network effects
  • platform ecosystems
  • product offering decisions
  • value creation and appropriation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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