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Freedom of Expression?

16 January 2016

From Barry Eisler via Joe Konrath’s blog:

I just learned about an event put on by an organization called New America (formerly The New America Foundation): Amazon’s Book Monopoly: A Threat to Freedom of Expression? Ordinarily, propaganda is something that concerns me, but when it veers this far off into parody, I sometimes welcome it as a comic diversion.

. . . .

[W]ho knows, maybe they’ll answer the question, “No,” right? Maybe the panelists will decide that Amazon’s “book monopoly” is actually a benefit to freedom of expression, as monopolies often are. It’s not as though they’ve structured things so that the question answers itself, and I don’t know why anyone would suspect this panel might be anything other than a diverse collection of open-minded people honestly engaging in free inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge wherever the facts may lead!

. . . .

Think about it. This “New America” organization has put together a panel dedicated to persuading you that there was morefreedom of expression when an incestuous group of five Manhattan-based corporations held the power to disappear 999 books out every thousand written, and indeed performed that disappearance as the group’s core function (they call this “curation”). And that, now that Amazon’s KDP platform has enabled all authors to publish virtually anything they want, freedom of expression is being threatened.

For an organization calling itself “New America,” these jokers sure seem wedded to the old version.

In fairness to New America, I should note that their worldview is hardly unprecedented. The notion that the traditional way of doing things is ipso facto the best way of doing things was lampooned by Voltaire over 150 years ago through his character Dr. Pangloss, who was convinced (before experience in the world introduced doubts) that “All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”

. . . .

One more thing about this event that’s unintentionally hilarious, and then I need to get back to something worthwhile (AKA, the new manuscript). Take a look at the guest list. If you hired a team of NASA scientists to design the most rabidly, incestuously anti-Amazon panel possible, this is pretty much the group the team would propose. Though I doubt even the scientists (assuming they had a little dignity) would have gone to far as to bring in Douglas Preston and his literary agent, Eric Simonoff. I mean, this is getting pretty close to just adding clones of existing panelists and eliminating the last fluttering fig leaf of diversity.

They also have the dean of the Amazon Derangement crowd, Scott Turow. And Franklin Foer, who in fairness should be disqualified from even being on this panel because of his claim—in his much-derided “Let us kneel down before Amazon” screed—that “That term [monopoly] doesn’t get tossed around much these days, but it should”!

By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Foer makes the same cringe-worthy claim again, on this very “Amazon is a Monopoly” panel. The anti-Amazon crowd has never been particularly educable.

Also present will be Mark Coker, the head of Smashwords, an Amazon competitor. And author Susan Cheever, a member of Authors United, an organization that represents pretty much the platonic ideal of Amazon Derangement Syndrome. A couple of anti-trust lawyers to provide a veneer of legal gravitas (and to troll for clients, no doubt). And a second-year law student named Lina Khan who has argued that Amazon “should alarm us.”

And that’s it. That’s as diverse and wide-ranging as the lineup gets. The full gamut of viewpoints, from A…all the way to B.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Barry Eisler’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.


Amazon, Big Publishing

6 Comments to “Freedom of Expression?”

  1. If we’re letting second-year law students weigh in on this now, I want in. I’m a second-year law student, just like Lina Khan, and I already addressed AU’s ridiculous letter to the DOJ here: http://randyjmorris.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-authors-united-letter-from.html

    It was featured on Joe’s first zombie meme blog post. I’ve written two more since then dealing with the AG, AU, and whatever other organizations since then:

    The Amicus Brief that AU wasted a lot of money writing for Apple v. United States (they even hired an expensive attorney this time)

    Amazon’s Single Physical Book Store under the Robinson-Patman Act

    Legally, these groups have no case. I don’t know why they think that if they keep yelling loudly enough, it will somehow change how the courts have already ruled.

    • If the facts are against you, bang on the law. If the law is against you, bang on the facts. If both are against you, bang on the table.

      In this case they’re banging their faces on the table in the hopes that someone will change things so that they can stop.
      (I’m not going to …)

  2. Maybe this time they’ll take out two full page ads in the NYTs and FedEx five letters for the DoJ to laugh at.

    By this time the only fools they’re fooling is the fools in their mirrors …

  3. And now consumers get yet another chance to show they don’t care what Douglas Preston, Franklin Foer, and Scott Turrow want.

    But I encourage them to signal their virtue to each other.

  4. You know, I never thought I’d say anything nice about that one-sided New York Public Library round table where PG went to get shouted down and talked over, but at least they had the temerity to invite someone from the opposition.

  5. They do have a feedback form. I used it. You can, too 😉

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