THIS fight between Amazon and the Hachette publishers doesn’t seem to be going away. And it may be damaging the online booksellers’ “brand,” says David Carr in the New York Times.
As the uproar grows, Amazon is learning that while it may own the publishing industry with a 40 percent market share of all new books sold, according to Publishers Weekly, it doesn’t own the debate. By blocking inventory, Amazon has become the less-than-everything store. Books may be a small fraction of what it sells, but books are precious, troves of speech, not just products for commerce. They were also the linchpin of the company’s early march to retail dominance. The symbolism is profound.
Carr also quotes James Patterson, who said, at BookExpo, “If Amazon’s not a monopoly, it’s the beginning of one. If this is to be the new American way, this has to be changed, by law if necessary.”
Bestselling writer Malcolm Gladwell has also broken his silence here.
It’s sort of heartbreaking when your partner turns on you. Over the past 15 years, I have sold millions of dollars’ worth of books on Amazon, which means I have made millions of dollars for Amazon. I would have thought I was one of their best assets. I thought we were partners in a business that has done well. This seems an odd way to treat someone who has made you millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, Jack Shafer — long one of the most credible and independent-minded critics of press and media, says he’s appalled by Amazon’s recent behavior, especially its silence in the press, and is cancelling his account.
One would think with that many hooks into me, I’d be more an Amazon slave than a customer. But that’s not so. Thanks to the company’s recent non-response to criticism that it’s abusing its market power — a silence that’s consistent with Amazon’s we’ll only-talk-if-we-want-to-promote-something media policy — I’ve made the easy decision to turn my back on the world’s biggest store.
This is especially striking since Shafer is a pro-business libertarian with little patience for moral grandstanding. If he’s pissed, too, things are bad.