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Saturday, 28 June 2014

Amazon V Publishers: The Book Wars?

Books (Photo credit: henry…)
Almost daily, we’re bombarded with attacks on Amazon by publishers and attacks on Publishers by Amazon and writers. Many can see that neither Amazon nor the major publishers are doing the book world a lot of good. In fact, it’s been suggested that the current war on books, and its major antagonists, will soon effectively destroy literature as we know it.

Amazon has other interests as a retail outlet, but it’s the book side that engages writers and readers. Major publishers long ago stopped pretending they had any concern for authors other than those who are already celebrities. The bean counters took control of reading choice decades ago.

Whilst these two large parties slog it out to the detriment of both creators and consumers, the world of books slowly drowns in the conflict.

It seems to me there must be another way. Self-publishing appeared a likely alternative for many authors, but Amazon took control there as well, devouring or disabling all major opposition in its rush to rule the game and satisfy its investors.

The major publishers, of course, continue to refuse to come to terms with the modern world and, in spite of the very clear example of inaction in the music industry, take a wait and see approach, which has left them floundering and at the mercy of the giant in the field.

Another way?

Seems obvious to me, but then I’m neither businessman nor accountant; I’m just someone who loves reading, books, and writing, so what do I know?


If the major publishers, together with the multitude of small independents, could get around the table, bury their idiotic jealousies and petty squabbling for celebrity crap, and set up their own online sales and retail-based distribution company, they could out-Amazon Amazon. The current situation is dangerous for books and readers: any industry in which an effective monopoly governs the market is doomed to dictatorship by that giant. But a co-operative of publishers, acting in concert, could act as an effective modifier in the marketplace and undo the damage currently being done to the world of books.
Of course, I realise this is a pipe dream: the publishers have demonstrated their idiocy, their ‘head-in-the-sand’ attitude, their total lack of concern for developing the very talent that supplies them with new products, and their petty rivalries over shelf-space etc.

But this is a war unlike any other. This is a battle for the very survival of literature. Do we want to lose a whole generation to games and social networks, or will publishers actually do something to stop the rot and return to doing what they once did so well? Are they going to get back into the business of developing and selling books, or will they allow inaction and misplaced self-interest to destroy a world so many of us hold dear?

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