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5 reasons to wish Amazon an unhappy birthday

11 July 2015

From Salon:

Next week Amazon celebrates its 20th anniversary with a bunch of Black Friday-like sales. Remember how innovative and exciting Amazon was going to be, and the announcements that founder Jeff Bezos loved books and wanted to invigorate literary culture? Let’s walk down memory lane briefly and think of a few reasons we wish Amazon an unhappy birthday.

1. The bookstore that used to be in your neighborhood

The most direct and tangible effect of Amazon’s arrival in the bookselling market has been to shutter actual brick-and-mortar bookstores that allow people to browse through books, connect with the literary zealots who work there, and see authors read. If you have a favorite indie – Powell’s or the Tattered Cover or Politics and Prose or Carmichael’s or The Regulator or Skylight – you know how valuable these places are.

And there are about half as many indies as there were when Amazon arrived, from about 4,000 to about 2,000, according to George Packer’s virtuoso New Yorker essay, “Cheap Words.” In this time the U.S. population has added more than 60 million people. And the number of indies has plummeted.

Of course, the chains Borders and Barnes and Noble did not help; the indies fell to them too. But any decent bookstore makes a town or ‘hood a better place. And now Amazon has helped kill off the chains and independents alike.

How did Amazon do this? Tech utopians will tell you it was with “innovation,” Bezos’s brilliance, and the ability to anticipate market trends. But a lot of it comes down to unfair competition. The bookstore in your neighborhood, independent or chain, paid sales tax; until recently (it varies by state), Amazon did not. Bezos actually looked into setting up shop at in Indian reservation as a way to avoid taxes more permanently.

What did we expect would happen when these institutions are competing against each other for customers?

. . . .

3. Destroying the profession of author

Amazon and the rise of e-books and the other digital shifts have not just damaged bookstores, the people who used to work there, and publishing folk as well. It’s undercut the advances authors use to buy time to write something – slicing it by as much as half.

Around the time of Amazon’s war with the publisher Hachette, a number of authors became vocal. One of them was Janet Fitch, author of “Paint it Black,” who prefaced an open letter to Bezos this way:

As a middle-aged woman who has had some luck as a writer, I’d like this profession of author to remain a possibility for young writers in the future—and not become an arena solely for the hobbyist or the well-heeled. What will be lost when working writers no longer can support themselves pursuing their ideas, their art? What will be lost to this country, if these most talented can no longer make a living? I am making this an open letter, because I believe we are at a crossroads, and decisions are being made now which will affect our country permanently.

. . . .

5. Its near monopoly in bookselling

Amazon controls something like two-thirds of the sale of e-books, and exerts an enormous amount of force in every aspect of the book trade. This is exactly the kind of thing Teddy Roosevelt feared would happen if big companies were left alone. In an important New Republic story, Franklin Foer called Amazon a monopoly:

That term doesn’t get tossed around much these days, but it should. Amazon is the shining representative of a new golden age of monopoly that also includes Google and Walmart. Unlike U.S. Steel, the new behemoths don’t use their barely challenged power to hike up prices. They are, in fact, self-styled servants of the consumer and have ushered in an era of low prices for everything from flat-screen TVs to paper napkins to smart phones.

In other words, we’re all enjoying the benefits of these corporations far too much to think hard about distant dangers… The Internet-age monopolies are a different species; they flummox our conventional ways of thinking about corporate concentration and have proved especially elusive to those who ponder questions of antitrust, the discipline of law that aims to curb threats to the competitive marketplace.

So is it a monopoly, a near-monopoly, a monopsony (in which there is only one buyer), or something similar? However you slice it, Amazon is far too big and unregulated.

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to Gene, who said it was our ADS for the day, for the tip.



119 Comments to “5 reasons to wish Amazon an unhappy birthday”

  1. Okay, that picture at the bottom is hilarious.

    And #3. Opposite. No more words are necessary.

    Whatev. Finishing up my 15th book and publishing it next week. Thanks, Amazon.

    • Right? If not for *real* self-publishing in general, and Amazon in particular, I wouldn’t be earning a decent living right now.

      Congrats on #15, Robin.

    • The thing that gets me is the utter disconnect between the advances that the Big 5 give authors and Amazon selling books.

      How, in any universe, is Amazon to blame for the publishers screwing authors?

      • Probably the same way that some people like to blame everything on Anthropogenic Global Warming, or capitalism, or the Freemasons. The ‘Zon is an easy “big bad” to point at, it has fluffed some things up in the past, and it’s opaque. And it’s incorporated, so it must be bad.

        OTOH, without indie pub and Amazon, I’d never have published anything other than one academic monograph and a few articles, and I’m up to eight novels and a handful of short story collections and novellas, with more written but not published.

        • I submit that if ever a single publishing house, small or large, had opened a platform for writers like you, TXRed, or like me, and a gajillion others of our ilk, we wouldn’t get so much acute-and-chronic ADS. And the playing field would have leveled off that much sooner without the ‘Zon and KDP.

          But they didn’t, and now they must deal with the innovations they didn’t produce.

  2. And his book is for sale on Amazon. At $12.99 for the eBook. One day I’ll read a column bashing Amazon where the writer has pulled his or her book from Amazon. Then I’ll be impressed.

    • Don’t hold your breath waiting for that day…

    • Yale University Press.

      Some of it’s reviews are choice.

      300 pages of the author whinging about her losing freelance jobs at newspapers and magazines as well as the loss of bookstores, record stores and film rental stores. And everything is the fault of the Internet.

    • Be fair, Bob. He sold the book to the Yale University Press. He has no say in where his book is sold. Yale does.

      PS My dear gods. Can you believe how smug this guy is? The subtitle of his book is ‘The Killing of the Creative Class’.

      Saw a redneck on YouTube discussing bows and arrows and stiffness and flex. Knew his stuff in 3 dimensions. Even if you know nothing about bows and arrows — like me — it was absorbing.

      I wonder if Mr Timberg considers that gentleman part of ‘the creative class’.

      BTW if Mr Timberg is one of the creative class, I don’t want to be a member of it.

      • Be fair, Bob. He sold the book to the Yale University Press. He has no say in where his book is sold. Yale does.

        Yes, of course. That must have been a shock. Not like he could have predicted that, at all.

        Saw a redneck on YouTube discussing bows and arrows and stiffness and flex. Knew his stuff in 3 dimensions.

        Two things: Link, pretty please? Also… I’d bet he also knew his history. That would be the 4th dimension.

        Mark my words. The first time traveller will be from the mountains. “Hey, luk what I did!” And no one’ll believe him.

        Take care

  3. Cue my scared-of-Amazon acquaintances linking to this on Facebook in three…two…one…

    (When they do, can I borrow your awesome meme for the comments section, PG?)

  4. Apparently the writer doesn’t remember the big box explosion in the early 90s that saw Barnes and Borders kill far more local bookshops in a shorter amount of time.

    • You beat me to it. I get so tired of this revision of history that’s so prevalent in click bait like this.

    • Ditto. A friend of my mother’s used to own a little bookshop in a strip mall here in town. Then Hastings moved in literally right next door. A few months later, he closed up shop because he couldn’t compete with Hastings. So this ridiculous idea so many people have about Amazon being the sole destroyer of independent bookshops is hogwash.

      • Yeah, the funny thing to me is that it was basically right about when Amazon began that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan dramatized the plight of the big box bookstore vs. the local indie bookstore, by way of AOL email notifications, in a big-budget Hollywood movie. I mean, when you’ve got something that’s so much a part of the zeitgeist that Hollywood feels it’s worth putting on the big screen, it’s so funny to see it all but forgotten just a couple decades later.

    • And don’t forget, the big chains were able to kill off those indie bookstores so quickly because the Big 6 (now 5) gave the big chains preferential discounts in violation of US antitrust laws.

      • And it happened here in the UK too. We had a great little Indie bookstore in our nearby small town, friendly to local writers, knew their stock, knew their customers. Then one of the big chains moved in right across the street – seemed like a deliberate choice of site – and within a year they had closed. They were told ‘business is business.’ This was long before Amazon. I hate this revision of history.

    • Barnes and Noble effectively put a lot of thriving small publishers out of business as well with their big box store policy on returns…even more damaging for authors.

      • The 1990’S schorched literary earth tactics of “poor, Zon victims” Borders and B&N along with their BPH accomplices.

        It always bears repeating.

  5. “In other words, we’re all enjoying the benefits of these corporations far too much to think hard about distant dangers…”

    This, ah, writer, needs to go back to spin school. And I don’t mean Anytime Fitness down the block.


  6. The mind reels at what must run through the mind of a relentless hack like this. A life without facts or reality–or the ability to recognize either–must be a bizarre thing.

    Now, why does Salon exist? That’s a great question. I don’t even know how to come up with an answer.

    • Let’s pool our minds and put together a hit piece describing how Salon has irrevocably damaged print journalism.

      I used to be able to find Newsweek and the New Republic in print. Now I can’t. Salon is a digital competitor, so it is therefore the one to blame for their demise.

      Mockery is a good weapon here.

      • Salon is not curated, like Time and Newsweek and the New Republic. That lack of curation shows that they are not a serious enterprise, but people don’t realize how important curation is. They just see internet headlines and have no concept of the labor and resources required to produce real journalism. If Time and Newsweek raise their prices, people will see that they are obviously quality products and will come back to reading them and buying at the newsstand rather than looking that Salon fluff.

        Did I get the tone right? Channeling a Big Five press rep for that long makes my head hurt.

        • Nope, wrong tone. You need to add at least three bashes at Amazon and how evil it is — extra points are awarded if the ‘bad things’ are things already being done by the big publisher … 😛

          “Would you like to try again?” (this time say it with feeling! 😉 )

        • Tone is good. I was halfway through my mental point-by-point rant when I read your final sentence.

          “Real journalism” where I live is speaking about past events in present or future tense. Don’t get me started.

          • Well, it’s entirely appropriate. And it will remain so until they reach the present.

            Do you recall that old Apple add? “In X years, they will be as we are, but by then we’ll have moved forward”. Kind of describes legacy pub. News included.

            Take care

  7. I don’t really agree with #1, either. Maybe it’s because I live near a university town, but there are three thriving indie bookstores, one of which has been in town for at least 35 years. Amazon hasn’t hurt them at all.

    • And when they are hurt, it’s not so much the fault of Amazon as it is the fault of consumers. If people value ‘independent’ bookstores (that only stock what BPH spits out), then they’ll support them, and if they don’t support those stores, then they don’t value them. These sorts of things, including the Ursula argument, avoid affixing blame for what they dislike where it actually belongs – on readers and consumers. Why might that be?

      • Also, sometimes bookstores fail because the owner just wasn’t up to the realities of operating an actual business. I think we’ve all worked for someone who had no clue how to run anything.

        • Of the indy bookstores I’ve been in, two come to mind. One in a market in Dover, Del., that looked like it was owned by a hoarder. Books stacked in piles on the floor, forcing you to root through them. Books jammed willy-nilly on shelves with no order to them.

          The second one was better with nice shelves, but in the basement the magazines were piled in stacks on the floor, including 1950s and 1960s Playboys, which have some value now.

          Even the Lions Club Book Barn in Avondale, Pa., if they spent their time alphabetizing the fiction paperbacks, would see an increase in sales. I have been filling out the roster of certain authors, and I don’t mind the book’s condition, but I don’t have the time to plow through six bookcases of PBs in the hopes of finding them.

          What amazes me more is not have many businesses fail, but how many stay alive despite their owners.

          • Yep. I’ve almost killed myself a couple of times in one of our local independent shops tripping over books that have been left in the middle of the bloody floor. Also, they have a couple of office desks right there on the sales floor where the managers do all their office work, and their desks are piled two feet thick with all kinds of files and papers. I really don’t know how they can even complete a purchase order with workspaces like that. And why have your office right out on the sales floor? It all makes for a very hoardy, I-don’t-care-about-customer-service experience.

            • Was the owner a really old bearded guy with the leather hat that never comes off? How many cats did the place have walking about?

              Customer service??? Pshaw! They’re preserving culture. You don’t get customer service too. Jeez, some people.

  8. I loved the title, it told me without looking at anything else that it was a mouthpiece for the big five publishers.

    Amazon ought to do something ‘nice’ for the big five on its birthday, say like put all their books in a “Gatekeepers’ Overpriced Undernourished Author-got-the-Shaft” page that you can only find by clicking the “I Hate Amazon But I Shop/Sell Here Anyway” button. 😉


    Documentation is like sex: when it is good, it is very, very good; and when it is bad, it is better than nothing. — Dick Brandon

  9. Where do we wish Amazon a happy birthday – and many more?

  10. The article is an exercise in mediocrity. But nothing else is expected from Salon.

  11. Smart Debut Author

    I LOL’d at PG’s brilliant summation.

    That picture really says it all.

  12. There are so many things wrong with this article it makes my head spin. It’s like the writer just pulled all the ad nauseam arguments from a thousand other hack articles about Amazon and spliced together this monstrosity.

    Hey, maybe I could make a living on Salon by writing articles that require no brain function whatsoever. I can hack out 10 articles an hour. How much do they pay for each post? I’ll never have to think again! Easy-peasy money. Why doesn’t everybody do this? . . . Oh, yeah. I forgot. There’s a little thing called integrity. Oh, well. Back to the drawing board.

    • You probably could, actually. Salon is one of the least reliable sites out there…of course, I imagine you have a conscience and a soul 🙂

      Salon used to have good book reviews, I admit…but they went the way of “feelingz beetsz factz” a long time ago…

      I remember a couple years ago they published a few articles explaining why writers needed to unionize…and then blackball all nonunionized writers. They’re not “writer” friendly…they’re agenda friendly.

  13. I love how anyone that says anything ‘negative’ about Amazon is immediately pounced upon, told they have a psychological problem. Yeah, thinking about business and finance and how it affects the world is a problem. I think the real problem is the reaction we have to these people.

    Why are we so troubled by them?

    • I’m not troubled by them. I’m amused by their attempts to make their experiences the unequivocal norm.

      Because they’re not. Several of us here are proof of that.

    • I love how people think rational discourse and disagreement is a sign of psychological problems and that insulting them is a way to change their minds.

    • All “thinking” as you define it is not created equal.

      Plus, thinking about business, as you put it, requires that the discourse takes place from all perspectives in the digital age.

      Including the perspectives that you’re troubled we’re troubled with. 😉

      I’m quite sure I can find a list of websites and a certain amount of discourse that “thinks about business” from the opposite perspectives (worrying about the “pouncing on Amazon-loving people”). Also, every perspective in between.

      I think the problem lies in the fact that online, you can see and accumulate these perspectives, giving the illusion of people “pouncing” on a certain perspective.

      In fact, it isn’t people “pouncing,” but the accumulation of the same perspective that instantly is made present by the Web.

    • “Why are we so troubled by them?”

      We are troubled by them because if theirs is the only word out there then some poor dumb fool might think their words are true.

      Like smoking is cool and causes you no harm.
      Or that you have to go get shafted by a big publisher to truly be published.
      Or like this one, where Amazon is blamed for things done by big bookstore chains and the big publishers themselves …

      Which do you prefer in your little world — a one-sided and mostly false ‘story’, or something more balanced with a bit of truth and actual history thrown in?

    • This article does not show that the writer has given any real thought to any of the arguments he has put forth. And forget about any research. Clearly, there is little to none. I don’t mind people having negative arguments against Amazon’s business practices, as long as those arguments are based on facts. Nothing this writer has said is true. It is nothing more than wild conjectures based on bias and a knee-jerk acceptance of the publishing industry’s status quo.

      It seems oh so a la mode nowadays for people to get off on bashing Amazon as the Big Evil Empire. We’re here to take the cream off the top of their dessert.

  14. Patricia Sierra

    If you have nothing else to do, follow the article’s link and read the comments section.

    • I tried it for the heck of it, got: ‘Loading Comments…’ which is still there …

      (though, it might be because I block most scripts and even after allowing ‘salon’, there was over a dozen more begging to be allowed to sniff my cookies and blast me with ads … 😉 )

  15. “And there are about half as many indies as there were when Amazon arrived, from about 4,000 to about 2,000, according to George Packer’s virtuoso New Yorker essay, “Cheap Words.” In this time the U.S. population has added more than 60 million people. And the number of indies has plummeted.”

    Two thousand indies? This site must hold, what, half of those? That makes PV the last village resisting the Romans, does it not?

    I’d opened the thread, then browsed back to the beginning (since I open from “comments”) and my eye got caught there. I don’t think I’m going to read that… I’d say crap, but manure is way too useful, in comparison.

    Take care.

    • I think he was referring to indie bookstores…not indie authors 🙂

      • There is a problem with that 3 seconds of google research. Those articles all echo statistics from the American Booksellers Association, which reports that the number of it’s members has been rising year over year.

        The thing is, that doesn’t necessarily prove what some people would like it to prove. ABA members are a diverse lot. Just because a business joins the ABA doesn’t mean that they are a hole in the wall run by some professorial type who pays minimum wage to a gaggle of english majors who do it all for the love of books.

        That metaphysical bookstore down the street counts in their total, as well as that Judaica seller two towns over that you didn’t know was there. University bookstores are listed as well as Museums. Rare book dealers that are only open by appointment are listed alongside stores that only carry childrens books. When I browse the listings for my state I come across stores that only sell books to entomologists and wholesalers that require purchases of 25 books or more. Oh, and book fair organizers count too.

        What I’m saying is that when the ABA says that their membership is increasing, that doesn’t translate one-to-one with an increase in the numbers of the classic main-street independent bookseller. When it comes to 3 second google searches, sometimes it helps to dig deeper.

        My local small bookstore that sold event tickets and put up a books for at-risk kids christmas tree in the lobby (I fullfilled two of the cards every year) folded a few months after B&N opened a huge store two blocks away. Borders opened in the very same strip a few years later. That B&N is now a grocery. The Borders is still empty.

        • Yes. But. Same applies to indies who DON’T apply for ABA membership. Or to people in other associations, academies… who qualify for membership when the field is not really theirs (SFWA used to have –may still do– a Spanish SF editor among its members, technical university dean… all of it way off that “America” in the association name).

          While the belief that they sort of cancel each other out is a tad hopeful, that’s still more data than what the original article vomits.

          Take care.

        • Since they were tracking independent bookstores, I assume they’re not talking big chain branches. Although I did consider if they considered smaller, regional chains “independent” (such as Book World or BAM). They’re somewhere in-between, I’d say.

          If anything, it means there’s more indie bookstores than what’s accounted for. And the numbers track from 2009 – 2014. It’s a smaller number than it was in the 1990s, yes; but, there’s been a sharp increase since the low in the mid-2000s. There’s an “overall” decline but that seems to be changing.

          The article writer made a fallacious argument (correlatives are not causes, and post hoc ergo propter hoc) by saying that internet and Amazon especially “killed” the indie store. Big chain retailers did. I’d wager higher property taxes killed as many indie stores as did big chains.

          I did see a comment of yours below – sometimes it’s the local culture too, I agree. A book store that has only books in a semi-bookish town vs. the big chain retailer that also has gifts and knick-knacks? The latter will win out.

          I’m fairly optimistic – good business owners will choose good locations and diversify their sales options.

    • Oh, lawsy! I missed that quote. What a chuckle that gave me. 😀

  16. “What will be lost when working writers no longer can support themselves pursuing their ideas, their art? What will be lost to this country, if these most talented can no longer make a living?”

    Why was the letter addressed to Bezos instead of the Big 5? Haven’t I read numerous articles in the last 6 months saying how Trad Pubbed authors’ income has decreased and they have to work full time jobs?

    I know of several Indies who write full time. And I am certainly better off $elf publi$hing rather than going with a trad publisher.

    • And let’s not forget that under the trade-publishing system majority of authors couldn’t make a living with writing and had to have a day job, even the writers appearing on NYT bestseller list, way before Amazon. It’s seems that this is a fact that the trade-publishing pundits like to omit in their articles.

  17. Everyone sing along:

    Unhappy birthday to you.
    Unhappy birthday to you.
    Unhappy birthday, evil Amazon.
    Unhappy birthday to you.

    Ooh, is Prime offering free party hats? Gotta go check.

  18. OMG there is just so much fail in this article…

    It’s a frickin golden age for authors — more authors than ever because they are now making a much better cut of sales than the few and rare big-advance authors of the legacy system. There are no Manhattan gatekeepers sipping martinis keeping authors out of print or digital. The reader is the new gatekeeper and that is a good thing for everyone since it’s all really about the author and the reader.

    As an indie author, I may be critical of Amazon’s requirement for exclusivity, but it has done more to allow authors to be published than at any other time. More and more indie authors are making money from sales of their books, some paying bills, making a decent living (for a change) or even making life-changing income, than ever.

    Amazon made it a golden age for readers as well. Amazon has done more to bring books to the masses than anything. The person in East Podunk who has no Borders or Barnes and Noble, let alone small independent bookstore can get practically every book ever published online using an easy payment interface, at a great price and delivered right to their Kindle — or right to their doorstep with 2 day shipping with Prime. Reading books, both eBooks and print. Anywhere in the world. Who really cares about knocking elbows with some mucky mucks in a bookstore?

    Readers want to read. Period.

    Amazon makes that so much easier and THAT is why Amazon is the king of the book world.

    If anything, it’s READERS who have chosen Amazon over the bookstore, indie or big box. If you are going to get mad over the loss of the bookstore, get mad at readers. They chose with their mouses and trackpads — Amazon.

    • “Who really cares about knocking elbows with some mucky mucks in a bookstore?”

      I have never, and I never will, shop at a brick-and-mortar bookstore for the purpose of getting recommendations from the staff. Hell, I’d be lucky to get their attention much less a recommendation. I’d even be lucky if they even heard of any of the books I was looking for in the first place.

  19. Is anybody really surprised that a Salon article has only emotional arguments to back up its fatuous claims?

    Stats indicate that there are more indie booksellers and stores than there were 5 years ago, and Amazon “shelfspace” helped them. Essentially, yes, there are fewer indie stores than in 1995, but the big chains killed them. So, the number fell dramatically in the 2000s, but has been rising since. Online markets as well as good press have only helped them.

    Here’s one source, took two seconds to search: http://qz.com/263006/independent-bookstores-are-alive-and-well-in-america/

    This article is so fallacious its ridiculous. Then again, it is Salon. Their argumentative tactic is “FEELINGZ BETTUR TAN FACTZ”. So if the author FEEELZZ something, then it must be true. Gah.

    (Note: There’s a place for chains in the market too; they serve a wide array of purposes. However, this either/or stuff peddled out by the deranged is so…tiring…)

  20. Who said, ‘There you go again’? It was Reagan, right? Well, there you go again. This is what I hear when reading these articles: Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
    Oh, and that picture and caption? To die for!

  21. One commenter:

    “I prefer the traditional model because literary grads have been able find the best work”

    Yes, that certainly explains why Snooki has five books out. “Literary grads” “finding the best work”.

    She’s funny.

    • Yeah, so many readers I know bemoan the loss of the literary grad slush reader choosing which manuscripts the editor will see… such a loss.

    • Wait… Snooki has five books? Five books? You’ve got to be kidding!

      • I like to imagine she’s bringing in enough money to subsidize a few actual writers. From the Wikipedia descriptions**, her books sound as if they’re “alleged” to be novels, and aren’t actually so. Knocked me over with a feather to read that.

        **I can’t go to Amazon to look up this stuff. I’m scared of how the “based on what you’ve viewed” robot will react to the search.

        • Five hundred years from now, when the only surviving humans are brains in jars, Snooki’s works will be considered the only significant literature between The Old Man in the Sea (1952) and Why is the Earth Exploding? (2031).

    • @ juliabarrett

      Snooki has 5 books out? OMG! Are they manga? Must be a cash cow for whoever has ghosted “her” books.

      Nothing like having lotsa Snooki choices on the remainder table.

  22. Random, unedited first thoughts:

    Salon is generally a vast wasteland of ridiculous articles and it’s not worth taking the time to read poor, sloppy journalism.

    Indie bookstores are wonderful, but they’re a niche market, and it takes many factors to run a successful niche market business. Amazon didn’t put indie bookstores out of business, big box brick and mortar stores contributed to that.

    Traditional old-guard pub houses are generally responsible for authors not being able to make a living.

    Perhaps some of the people living on the rez who cannot afford transportation to an off-rez job might like to work for a company located on the rez, so they don’t have to hitchhike or take an hour-long bus ride to work. Mutual benefit, perhaps?

    Hey Salon, Amazon is not the only place to buy books. There are many other places, both online and down the street. So, not even a near-monopoly.

    I like amazon. I always did and I always will, even though they’re not perfect, like most things in life.

  23. connect with the literary zealots who work there,

    I’d rather connect with the logistics zealots who hang out down at the Pelican after the Amazon swing shifts lets out.

  24. LOL – I can’t resist…


  25. Phyllis Humphrey

    I’m one more author who now sells her books thanks to Amazon.

  26. Wow. Can someone get a tissue for her issues, because she’s leaving a stain on her $200 shoes and $100 shirts (assuming she’s making good peanuts from her writing).

    I sell my books on Amazon, and to be honest, I buy 95% of my music and other assorted odds and ends ’cause 1) new/old music is cheaper on Amazon than in the few stores that carry music 1a) I can find strange music at Amazon after I’ve listened to a song on the radio and 2) I buy assorted odds and ends {like a c.d. shelving unit} because no one carries those assorted odds and ends in my neck of the woods.

    Also, just for ha-ha’s, if people didn’t shop at Amazon for other things besides books (which aren’t the be all to end all), they wouldn’t be building new warehouses to create all those above minimum wage jobs that this creaky economy needs.

    Let’s face, Amazon can do things well. Publishers can’t do their one thing very well now, can they?

  27. You know, I’m sure that there are some fantastic indie bookstores out there and plenty of just plain good ones, but in my area of the world indie bookstores have ALWAYS been rare, there’s never been one in my neighborhood. And those that I have managed to visit, after a decent drive always, have never given me a good experience. Generally, they don’t have a good selection of the kinds of books I like to read (fantasy and sci fi) nor are their employees very friendly or helpful. The stores are usually tiny and don’t have anything to offer beyond a rather limited selection of books. There’s nothing special or magical about any of the indie bookstores I’ve ever been to. They are just places of business that sell books, but don’t serve my needs as a reader.

    I see absolutely no reason to support a business that doesn’t serve my needs as a customer. Indie bookstores are not my responsibility. If they don’t serve the needs and wants of enough customers to sustain themselves then they don’t have any particular right to stay in business. I’m sick to death of all these “Wahh! But indie bookstores!!” articles. They’re just stores, not unicorns and rainbows. If they can’t do business then they should get out of business and let the stores that can actually give readers what they want, like Amazon, get on with it.

    • But we have a responsibility to support independent bookstores so literary zealots can connect with each other. Without the literary zealots and the community they form, literature and culture will disappear. Who would tell us how the first chapters of To Kill A Mocking Bird and Watchman compare? I can’t read them for myself, and I’m not even smart enough to care. Do you want the fate of literature and culture in the hands of people like me?

      • Don’t feel bad Terrance. You may be too dumb to care but I’m too dumb to even bother to read the whole article relating to the comparison or the above article for that matter.

        I get the dunce cap today – maybe I can order that with the party hats the folks above are looking into?

    • “I see absolutely no reason…”

      “Remember, remember, the writers tender.
      The bookstore treason and plot.
      I can see no reason,
      why the bookstore treason
      should ever be forgot”


      Take care.

    • @ Sarah

      Amazon has been a blessing and a lifesaver to millions of small mom ‘n’ pops who sell their stuff via The Zon. Most of what I order through Amazon are from these mnp’s, who are usually cheaper than buying direct from Amazon. So I’m supporting small businesses. And not for any socio-political-cultural reasons. It’s because they’re cheaper.

      Small businesses, like ALL businesses, must adapt or die. Those “indie bookstores” that are dying are doing so because they’re stuck in a B&M mindset, while they could be raking it in from worldwide customers through Amazon.

      TTFN, gotta go cry me a river now…

  28. RealityObserver

    Actually, I see most of this as transference. Would-be writers used to blame the big publishers for the fact that they could not make a living. That was then transferred to the big chains. Now it has been transferred to big Amazon.

    Never, ever, will they transfer the blame to the real reason – they can’t write worth a damn.

    • Or that nobody wants to read what they’ve chosen to write about.

      • Well, I’ve read taxonomies with more interest than some Nobels… I’m with Reality. That is “Can’t write worth a damn”.

        Take care.

    • Let’s not forget about all those independent authors who are bringing thousands of books to market, destroying literature as we know it, and making it nearly impossible for consumers to discover the truly meaningful contributions.

      People don’t want to read about some guy moving scrambled eggs around his plate becaus they are trapped in independent genre land.

  29. The author of this article is clearly over the age of 50 and not dealing with modern life very well. Just like moaning old people in every generation they should be ignored. Too bad if there are no more record stores:- I do not mourn spending $10 on a 45 and I do not mourn the days where I could only ever buy/view/read a portion of a Sci Fi series (or any series) as my small country has always been a marketing afterthought by any entertainment corporation and our TV programming has never given a hoot for our sense of story (Coronation Street excepted) so yay for the Internets!
    Happy birthday Amazon – I have been an occasional customer ever since 1998 even though the exchange rate and freight make many purchases prohibitively expensive. With Kindle now freight is no problem. And I can be published worldwide, something my NZ Big 5 publisher could never achieve for me.

    • A 45? 45s are too slow. You need at least 78 to properly appreciate the nuance. Those damn new formats, just because they have to ship them around… tiny, flimsy… Vinyl was never good for…

      Unless we’re talking inches, of course.

      Take care.

      • Ha ha! I still have some of all formats in my collections and began playing 78s, of course. Even had a wax cylinder player and a box of cylinders and a collection of now unplayable wires for another early format.
        But mp3s are so much easier to play…

      • Vinyl, schminyl. The really good records are made of easily-shattered wax. And are cylinders, not platters.

  30. The thing I really love about all this is that Salon sometimes gets so desperate to find something bad to say about Amazon that it settles for saying something ridiculous.

  31. Oh, GOOD one, Chris! Discerning pseudo-journalists like Ms Romano know it’s all about the book bags.

  32. I hate all this talk of Amazon being a monopoly. No one is stopping anyone else out there from competing with Amazon. If people (B&N, Kobo, Publishers) would just get off their asses and COMPETE…

    But no, they insist on doing things their way. They aren’t even trying to build a better search engine or disrupt the market. Where Amazon is innovating, others are still stuck in the 20th century.

    • Word.

    • I’ve come to realize that the argument over whether Amazon is technically a “monopoly” or not is, in actuality, effectively a red herring. Whether Amazon meets the textbook definition of “monopoly” or not, there really shouldn’t be any argument that they do have a lot of power and ownership of the majority of the e-book marketplace.

      They didn’t do this by dirty tricks, regardless of what the publishers say. They just built the proverbial better mousetrap. That being said, they do have that much power, and with that much power they need to have an equal amount of responsibility. As many of the linked article’s points are pure hooey, it nonetheless really is kind of worrying to see that much power concentrated in one company’s hands.

      The problem with telling other companies to “just compete” is that once a company is incumbent in a position of market leadership, it’s really hard for any competitor to get any traction. If Apple, one of the biggest companies in the world and one of the most famous for innovation, couldn’t do it even with illegal assistance from its publisher buddies, what chance does anyone else have?

      • Amazon is a buyers’ experience, not a sellers. There are more sellers out there than any of us can count to, but if the buyers aren’t interested then the seller is wasting their time.

        Amazon has been gathering the numbers of who is willing to pay how much for what for years. So they ‘guide/suggest’ the price ranges of things like ebooks. (and you can’t fault Amazon if the big publishers overprice their ebook offerings to try to boost paper book sales.)

        If any business is going to take sales away from Amazon, they’ll have to make it worth it for the buyers — not the sellers’ — desires.

        (I did think it funny you bemoaning the “you’re holding it wrong” company making a dog’s breakfast of teaming up with the sellers to screw the buyers …)

      • That being said, they do have that much power, and with that much power they need to have an equal amount of responsibility. As many of the linked article’s points are pure hooey, it nonetheless really is kind of worrying to see that much power concentrated in one company’s hands.

        Responsibility? Amazon has brought more books to more people for lower prices than anyone in history.

        What’s the basis of the worry?

        The problem with telling other companies to “just compete” is that once a company is incumbent in a position of market leadership, it’s really hard for any competitor to get any traction.

        General Motors, ATT, IBM, Yahoo, AOL, Borders, Sears, Blockbuster…

        Competitors couldn’t get any traction against those incumbents?

        God Bless Capitalism, for incumbernts become endangered species.

        • “What’s the basis of the worry?”

          The ‘C’ word. Control. They can no longer dictate and control what is offered up to be read.

          Amazon and the internet made it too easy for anyone to post/publish a book.

          So they whine about Amazon being evil and try to DMCA take-down anything on the web that might take eyes/readers away from what they’re trying to sell.

          This is why I don’t believe AG has really changed its tune, it quietly mumbles something minor in the background claiming to ‘help’ authors while shouting that congress should enact laws to make shutting up/down indies easier by DMCAing them.

          Meet the new AG, still as much in the big publishers’ pockets as the old AG …

  33. 1. The bookstore that used to be in your neighborhood

    Actually, lets blame that on the big chain bookstores, who did far more damage than Amazon to the local bookstore.

    2. The way it treats workers

    From what I’ve read, their workers are treated no worse than anywhere else. I’ve certainly worked hard, dirty jobs for low wages, in hot environments, and with few worker protections. I was “forced” to work in the heat at an exhausting pace for years, so I know how hard that is. Amazon didn’t invent the sweat shop.

    3. Destroying the profession of author

    Oh, come on. All those bad publishing contracts had nothing to do with it? Really? How about all the people who are making good money now, many of them once traditionally published? Some of those folks couldn’t buy lunch, and now they can pay bills.

    4. The “Gazelle Project”

    I have no idea what this is, but judging from the article it looks like standard business practices to me.

    Corporations are evil, if you haven’t noticed. They’re also people now, according to our Supreme Court.

    5. Its near monopoly in bookselling

    Frankly, I lay this at the feet of the competition. Who forced Barnes and Noble to be such total failures at selling books online? You would think being one of the biggest book store chains would have taught them something about selling books.

    Who makes any of these other retailers have such horrible experiences in simply finding books? Why don’t they have good search engines, author pages, web presences that even try to compete with Amazon?

    All in all, a good example of Amazon Derangement Syndrome for sure. I mean, I have my own issues with Amazon, but I’m not blaming them for stuff other people do.

    • Given the ever ballooning sections of toys and “lifestyle products” in Barnes and Noble stores, it seems that they are becoming failures at selling books offline as well.

    • Corporations are evil, if you haven’t noticed. They’re also people now, according to our Supreme Court.

      What does an author become when she forms an LLC?

    • “Corporations are evil, if you haven’t noticed. They’re also people now, according to our Supreme Court.”

      So the big publishers and big chain bookstores have been even more evil longer than poor little Amazon? (that’s the problem with using such a wild brush — it covers things you may not have intended it to …)

  34. The only news/propaganda publication that lies more than Salon is the NY Times.

  35. Have we already talked about how this person really seems to think that without the ever loving advances authors really can’t write? Does this person even understand how long it has been since advances could actually support an author while writing? Heck, these days, from what I hear, advance money can barely keep a person in gas money and coffee.

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