QUESTION I wonder if this whole argument is actually misdirected. Is it accurate to say Amazon VS Hachette or is it more accurate to say Amazon VS All Other Bookstores with Hachette being bullied into conforming to the Amazon business model in order to finance their long journey towards becoming a monopoly?
Amazon is an Everything Store and books are just a small part of their business. Amazon could exist even if they didn’t sell books on their site, however, because they control such a large percentage of the trade market they can use that as leverage to help their profit margin (which has struggled over the years)
In a capitalist society it’s all about making money. Amazon makes money by selling goods while Hachette makes money by making goods (books) to be sold. It’s not good capitalism if Amazon crushes publishing because then they would not be able to make money by the selling of the goods. The REAL issue here is that Amazon is pricing their books so low that other stores that sell books can’t compete with them and are slowly being forced out of business. If Amazon ends up being the only place you can buy said goods then they eventually can control the price of said goods because there is no competition in the market. The Colbert Report piece shown yesterday mentioned that Amazon controls 50% of the trade market (which is a huge amount of profit that the publishers NEED to rely on) which is why Amazon can use it so effectively as leverage for their terms.
Amazon isn’t drastically discounting books to make it more affordable to enlighten you or to crush the evil greedy publishing empire. Amazon sells books (more commonly at at a loss of profit) because they are taking the chance that they can crush brick and mortar stores.
The self-publishing Amazon model is a ruse. While it’s fine to say everyone SHOULD be allowed to publish books it’s not the same to say all books DESERVE to be published, because not all books are PROFITABLE. Publishers don’t publish everyone because sometimes those books just won’t make a certain profit in order for it to be considered economically viable. Amazon has the luxury of having an online store and listing everything under the sun but they do so because they can still possibly profit from something that isn’t viewed as financially viable to a traditional publisher. Amazon might only make a fraction of a cent in profit from a self-published book, but if you offer thousands of self published books, then you can make a profit, albeit a small one. It has been skewed to the impression that publishers are “elitist” and they only publish things that are “worthy”, but they are in the business of making money off of content which is why your see books written by Snooki, and the like.
As a published mid-list author it’s at a disadvantage for me to be in a market surrounded by a sea of both good, and questionable content. It’s a term known as The Long Tail. If there is an immense flooded sea of content then it is extremely difficult for any content to stand out thus effecting all of us all be it for profit or enlightenment. Amazon doesn’t care. It just wants to make money regardless if content is good or bad.
Lastly, the notion that publishers are greedy is asinine.
I’m looking at my 1981 copy of Jumanii and it cost me $17.95. That’s relatively the same cost you pay for picture books now. In 1981 my parents could fill up the gas tank in their car for $10. Now, you’re looking at anywhere from $40-$80 (sometimes even more) to fill up your tank. In 35 years it now costs you, on average, 6X more to fill your tank. Yes, inflation on goods will go up after 35 years but in that time Jumanji is the same price now as it was 35 years ago.
That’s not greed.