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Talk at NYPL
In April 2014, Amazon and Hachette locked horns in what has become a very public, and still ongoing, battle over contract negotiations. After the online retailer removed the pre-order option, imposed shipping delays, and slashed discounts on the book publisher's titles, the reaction against Amazon was swift and fierce. But the story of the Amazon-Hachette dispute is anything but simple, and raises critical questions about the future of the book publishing industry. What is really at stake for the companies, authors and readers? What larger issues of free-market capitalism and free speech are at play? And what does the Amazon-Hachette dispute reveal about the future of the publishing industry in the age of e-books? Authors, agents, and publishers take to the LIVE from the NYPL stage to tackle these urgent questions in a conversation moderated by Tina Bennett, literary agent at WME. Guests include: best-selling author James Patterson; Morgan Entrekin, publisher and president of Grove Atlantic; Bob Kohn, attorney and founder of EMusic.com; Tim Wu, law professor and theorist of “net neutrality;” and Danielle Allen, political theorist, author of a new book on the Declaration of Independence and elected chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board.
Commentary on the Amazon-Hachette fight by publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin.
Shatzkin says - My “position” on all this is that it reveals an imbalance that only the government can fix.
Another point he makes: Amazon, at great expense and with great vision, made the ebook business happen. Before the Kindle, the ebook marketplace was small and unambitious. The biggest player in terms of sales was Palm, which wasn’t really interested. The most interested party was Sony, which repeatedly tried over more than a decade to establish some sort of ebook device and ecosystem. But Amazon made a significant corporate commitment — creating the Kindle device, pressuring the publishers to make much more of their catalog available as ebooks, and investing heavily in discounted sales and screen real estate to build the consumer market. When B&N with Nook in late 2009 and Apple with iPad and iBookstore in early 2010 entered the market, they were attempting to capitalize on a product class that Amazon had pretty much single-handledly created.
From the Sunday Times UK: (subscription required after third paragraph, but there's enough there to get the gist of this opinion piece by historian and author Amanda Foreman).
"One of the greatest monopolies in history was the medieval Catholic Church. Its religious and temporal power was absolute until confronted by an even more potent rival: the printed book. Today, print is once more at the centre of a cultural revolution. Only this time it is not the challenger to a global monopoly but its most successful weapon.
Amazon, founded and controlled by Jeff Bezos, used the humble book to leverage itself into becoming the world’s largest online retailer. It took 20 years for Amazon to emerge as a monopolistic power. Last week, by creating an effective blacklist of authors for use as a bargaining tool against Hachette Book Group, the company showed us how far it would go in its abuse of that power."
"Amazon's real attitude to the book industry was revealed in its public statement last Tuesday. This referred to books as 'demand-weighted units.' They are not. A customer looking for Tolstoy's War and Peace won't buy Talshoy's Peace and War because it is cheaper. Despite what Amazon would like us to believe, Tolstoy's book has value, the other simply a price."
The Hachette/Amazon story is well played but the following Teleread piece discusses and links to several articles and brings together some interesting ideas.
* Independent booksellers appear to be opening more stores than closing them
* From an independent publisher’s point of view, Amazon is a forest in which a thousand flowers bloom
Full article here.
Well, all right, that’s not a literal quote, but it might as well be. Salon has never made any pretense of its anti-Amazon leanings (as we saw recently with Laura Miller’s piece claiming she was swearing off Amazon), but lately it seems to have gone a little round the bend. Over the last couple of days, it’s started coming up with whatever Amazon hit pieces it possibly could. I’m talking serious scraping of the bottom of the barrel here.
Full article at Teleread
From Shelf-Awareness a report on author James Patterson's address to conference participants:
"Amazon seems out to control shopping in this country. This ultimately will have an effect on every grocery and department store chain and every big box store and ultimately put thousands of mom and pop stores out of business. It sounds like a monopoly to me. Amazon also wants to control bookselling, the book business and book publishing. That's a national tragedy. If this is the new American way, it has to be changed by law if necessary."
The Passive Voice linked the other day to yet another Amazon-punisher: Jack Shafer, posting at Reuters, writes about the many ways Amazon has enmeshed their hooks into his life—Prime membership, Kindle ownership, magazine subscriptions and so on, all of which he used and enjoyed quite happily. And then! Amazon is Evil Overlording Hachette! You can’t get Malcolm Gladwell anymore! He’s quitting Amazon forever!
There is no emoticon big enough to properly convey my eye roll here. I have read dozens of articles on this Hachette and Amazon feud, including several by my fellow Teleread contributors. And I don’t get it. Articles like Shafer’s rant are presupposing a lot of things which I don’t feel we can accept as given and true:
Full blog post at Teleread
Publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin discusses the public battle over trading terms taking place between Hachette Book Group and Amazon.
Amazon has begun discouraging customers from buying books by Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Colbert, J. D. Salinger and other popular writers, a flexing of its muscle as a battle with a publisher spills into the open.
The Internet retailer, which controls more than a third of the book trade in the United States, is marking many books published by Hachette Book Group as not available for at least two or three weeks.
Anne Rice has tackled vampires, werewolves and witches in her fiction, but now the bestselling novelist is taking on a real-life enemy: the anonymous "anti-author gangsters" who attack and threaten writers online.
The Interview with the Vampire author is a signatory to a new petition, which is rapidly gathering steam, calling on Amazon to remove anonymity from its reviewers in order to prevent the "bullying and harassment" it says is rife on the site. "They've worked their way into the Amazon system as parasites, posting largely under pseudonyms, lecturing, bullying, seeking to discipline authors whom they see as their special prey," Rice told the Guardian. "They're all about power. They clearly organise, use multiple identities and brag about their ability to down vote an author's works if the author doesn't 'behave' as they dictate."