From author Ursula K. Le Guin via Book View Café:
Amazon and I are not at war. There are vast areas in which my peaceful indifference to what Amazon is and does can only be surpassed by Amazon’s presumably equally placid indifference to what I say and do. If you like to buy household goods or whatever through Amazon, that’s totally fine with me. If you think Amazon is a great place to self-publish your book, I may have a question or two in mind, but still, it’s fine with me, and none of my business anyhow. My only quarrel with Amazon is when it comes to how they market books and how they use their success in marketing to control not only bookselling, but book publication: what we write and what we read.
Best Seller lists have been around for quite a while. Best Seller lists are generated by obscure processes, which I consider (perhaps wrongly) to consist largely of smoke, mirrors, hokum, and the profit motive. How truly the lists of Best Sellers reflect popularity is questionable. Their questionability and their manipulability was well demonstrated during the presidential campaign of 2012, when a Republican candidate bought all the available copies of his own book in order to put it onto the New York Times Top Ten Best Seller List, where, of course, it duly appeared.
If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.
The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food.
. . . .
I believe that reading only packaged microwavable fiction ruins the taste, destabilizes the moral blood pressure, and makes the mind obese. Fortunately, I also know that many human beings have an innate resistance to baloney and a taste for quality rooted deeper than even marketing can reach.
. . . .
But you can’t buy and read a book that hasn’t been kept in print.
Consistent in its denial of human reality, growth capitalism thinks only in the present tense, ignores the past, and limits its future to the current quarter. To the BS machine, the only value of a book is its current salability. Growth of capital depends on rapid turnover, so the BS machine not only isn’t geared to allow for durability, but actually discourages it. Fading BSs must be replaced constantly by fresh ones in order to keep corporate profits up.
. . . .
Once it’s less read and talked about the BS is no longer a BS. Now it’s just a book. The machine has finished with it, and it can depend now only on its own intrinsic merit. If it has merit, reader loyalty and word of mouth can keep it selling enough to make it worth keeping in print for years, decades, even centuries.
The steady annual income of such books is what publishers relied on, till about twenty years ago, on to support the risk of publishing new books by untried authors, or good books by authors who generally sold pretty well but not very well.
That idea of publishing is almost gone, replaced by the Amazon model: easy salability, heavy marketing, super-competitive pricing, then trash and replace.
Link to the rest at Book View Café and thanks to Loretta for the tip.
PG has read several of Ms. Le Guin’s books and enjoyed them, but must observe that “in print” is becoming less relevant by the day.
Indie authors don’t presently have and, PG believes, are unlikely to experience any problems keeping their books “in print.”
The only authors PG encounters who can’t find their books (or their royalties) are those yoked to traditional publishers whose minions regularly generate circumstantial evidence of substance abuse or dementia.
If you want to find what’s working, vibrant and innovative about the book world today, you’re advised to look toward Seattle rather than New York.