Friday, May 30, 2014

Amazon Vrs. Hachette

There is an opinion column in the NY Times here that suggests that Amazon is holding up the distribution of Hachette books because Amazon really needs more money from them.  Amazon's rationale has been that they want to keep prices lower for their customers;  the NY Times column theorizes that Amazon needs more money because it is "restlessly expanding."  The column then discusses Germany, where prices on books are allowed to be fixed by the publishers, and suggests that, since Amazon is selling a lot of books in Germany, that model must be okay.  Of course, the courts in the U.S. have called that price-fixing, and disallowed it.   Then the Times article throws in an image of "a white room filled with empty bookshelves" as an example of Nazi terrorism.

The image of book-burning Nazi Germany is supposed to let the reader infer--I imagine--that Amazon's tactics will somehow result in rooms full of empty bookcases.  Really, using an image like that is the worst kind of sensationalist journalism.

The reality is that Amazon has brought the opportunity to publish to thousands of authors that establishment publishing companies have turned their backs on.  It has also brought thousands of very low-priced e-books (for free or $0.99) to readers who can't afford the high prices demanded by New York publishers. It has, almost single-handily, created a huge literary marketplace of books. 

Personally, I think what's happening now in publishing is the most exciting thing since the invention of the printing press.

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