Canadian literary prize suspended after finalists object to Amazon sponsorship

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From The Guardian:

A much-loved Québécois literary prize has been suspended after the five finalists for this year’s award publicly protested at its sponsorship by Amazon.

The CA$5,000 (£3,000) Prix littéraire des collégiens, running since 2003, is intended to promote Québécois literature and is decided by a jury of hundreds of students who select their winner from a selection of five works of fiction written in French by Canadian authors. But after this year’s finalists, the writers Lula Carballo, Dominique Fortier, Karoline Georges, Kevin Lambert and Jean-Christophe Réhel, discovered that Amazon Canada would be the prize’s new principal sponsor, they wrote to Le Devoir urging organisers to reconsider.

“Our great unease comes from the dangerous competition this giant has with Quebec bookstores. Need we remind you of the precariousness of the book trade and literary publishing? Need we mention the inhumane methods of this online giant, which constitute a danger for small traders and culture at large?” they wrote.

. . . .

“Could the [award] do without the money from Amazon? Find sponsors more in line with the values ​​it stands for?” they asked. “Unfortunately, we believe that by uniting with Amazon, the prize is failing in its principal mission, which is to ‘promote Québécois literature today’ … We believe that the defence of Québécois literature and the promotion of a multinational that harms bookstores … cannot go together.”

After the letter was published, organisers announced the prize would be suspended. In a statement, co-founder Claude Bourgie Bovet said the decision was the “direct result of the distressing reaction of many parties in the Quebec book trade following the recent announcement of major support”.

. . . .

Amazon has been approached for comment. The online giant had said, when it was announced as sponsor for the award, that it shared the programme’s “commitment to fostering a love for Québécois literature, both in the region and abroad”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG will note that Quebec bookstores only serve those who live within a reasonable distance and can afford to pay what the bookstores and the publishers have decided they need in order to survive and prosper.

According to Statistics Canada, 19.4% of the provincial population of Quebec live in rural areas (areas with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants and a population density below 400 people per square kilometre). How many bookstores are within a reasonable distance of this rural population.

How many bookstores are located within First Nations communities? How many indigenous authors are published by traditional publishers in Quebec? How do the hurdles faced by indigenous authors seeking publication via traditional publishers compare with the hurdles faced by indigenous authors seeking publication via Kindle Direct Publishing?

26 thoughts on “Canadian literary prize suspended after finalists object to Amazon sponsorship”

  1. As a francophone born and raised in Ontario, I can also point out that french books do not make it outside of Quebec in large numbers.. certainly not french Quebecois books.

    I am personally, emotionally, much more sympathetic with the anti-amazon view, (or Amazon derangement syndrom, if you prefer).. but anyone actually interested in promoting Quebecois literature should really embrace the ‘Zon!

  2. Our great unease comes from the dangerous competition this giant has with Quebec bookstores. Need we remind you of the precariousness of the book trade and literary publishing?

    I personally have mixed feelings about Amazon, but one thing I wish those opposed to it would do is sit down and try to get their collective stories straight. One day I visit here and read about how ebooks are fading, everybody is buying from their local independent bookstore, and so on. Visit the next day, and this. Well, which is it, gang?

    Hundreds of Canadian teachers have signed a letter calling for government intervention to save the award.

    If this is the first year of Amazon sponsorship (and it apparently is) and the award itself has been around for awhile (“since 2003,” per the article) why is the award suddenly in danger of failing? Who sponsored it before?

    • It’s not in danger of failing so much as everyone feels that Amazon’s sponsorship of the award threatens the Tradpub world. Forgetting of course that Amazon does in fact sell Tradpubbed books.

      • I’m too lazy to look it up, but I wonder if it used to be sponsored by those poor failing publishers and/or B&M bookstores – who can no longer afford to bother with it …

        In which case killing off the prize is a good way to admit that those sponsors of old are on their way out.

    • I went to the OP and saw this link next to it:

      “French booksellers have called on literary judges to “defend books and not those who threaten them”, after one of France’s most prestigious prizes selected a self-published novel available only via Amazon.

      Among the 17 titles in contention for this year’s Prix Renaudot is Marco Koskas’ Bande de Français, which was self-published on Amazon’s CreateSpace platform. According to the Syndicat de la librairie française, which represents French booksellers, the jury have put them in an impossible position.

      The French-Israeli author, who has published more than a dozen books via more traditional routes, told the Guardian he was forced into put out an edition of Bande de Français himself after no French publisher picked it up.”


      So just a bunch of hypocrites upset that they can’t control things anymore …

  3. The naysayers in response to Amazon’s sponsorship of this award:

    “Pardon me while I go cut off my nose to spite my face. No, no, everything’s all right. I didn’t need it anyway.”

  4. ???

    I don’t understand.

    The wrong faceless megacorp is selling books now?

    Feel free to educate me. I’m legit confused here. And what’s this PG is saying about Amerindian writings? Are the same bobble heads who bitch about Amazon the same people who support a system that keeps gate keepers in business, which hurts minorities and small market writers?

    Ugh. (retreats into fantasy)

    • Maybe they fear readers looking for their ‘works of art’ on Amazon might find better stories published by those dang indie authors for less than what their publishers think their ‘works of art’ should sell for.

  5. And I’m guessing the publishers of those five finalists don’t use Amazon to sell any of their a/e/p/books – right?

    If not, then these weren’t finalists but merely hypocrites.

    • They should withdraw them – oh wait – they’d have to tell their publisher(s) to withdraw them! those publishers like making dirty Amazon money – those finalists should stop using those publishers!

      And it might be hard to find a publisher that doesn’t sell on Amazon, so they might have to settle for self-publishing, and it seems the best place to do that is … hmm …

      Dang, maybe they can take up knitting … 😛


    • Actually, all 5 of them have books on Are they so well off they can turn up their noses at $5K and potentially a bigger local audience?

  6. What does it mean when you no longer get angry, but rather just feel exhausted? Because that’s where I am.

    I find it tiring to read the kneejerk reactions – like this one – where people just jump in and yell, “Big is bad!”

    I had to sit on my typing fingers to avoid responding to a recent thread on our school FB page where a parent (local business owner) told everyone to buy local for Christmas, or else they were bad people.

    Except … Amazon pays me. It is literally only because Amazon pays me that I have money to shop in your local store. And, if it was JUST your local store on the main street, all the other local coffee shops, and restaurants wouldn’t open there, because there wouldn’t be enough business. I might not like Lululemon, but they bring shoppers to our main street (and your store).

    Nobody operates in a vacuum. Your small store might sell big brand names. A large store might stock local produce / products. Both employ local residents.

    Think. It. Through.

    • “Think. It. Through.”

      ‘Me first and only – screw everyone else.’ seems to be the way they like to think.

      For fun I’d ask the kids who watches Amazon prime (meaning they are using Amazon services) I’ll bet that local business bum’s kid raises their hand. 😉


  7. I’m skeptical that the world will be worse off for lack of this literary award program. That said, many are the people with legitimate grounds to oppose things I suspect would not make the world any worse.

    There are a lot of people in the world. We do not have all of the same interests.

  8. I hope all those objecting authors refuse to have their books on Amazon. In fact, I suggest they add it to their contracts that no publisher of theirs is allowed to sell their works on any Amazon platform. I mean, let’s be consistent. If you wont’ take Amazon’s money via sponsorship…don’t take Amazon’s money via sales from Amazon sites.

  9. My reaction? Oh, grow up. Amazon – and other forms of internet-based disruption – are here to stay, and you’re all being elitist anyway. (lots of reasons above)

    I have quite limited mobility. There is no circumstance under which I would use my limited energy to go to a bookstore – and have to deal with the bricks-and-mortar experience to find something to read. I have better things to do with my time and my energy and Amazon preserves a lot of that for my own use.

  10. Old-school Canadian writers – the kind that mix in chic literary circles and are supposed to win these kinds of awards – consider it déclassé to actually, you know, sell books. Only those gauche Americans would ever think of making money off of paying customers. That’s what grants are for!

    I have heard, and have no reason to doubt, that this attitude is even stronger among old-school Québecois writers.

    • If they aren’t writing books to sell at B&M bookstores then they aren’t actually supporting those bookstores either – so they are the reason bookstores are sinking with stock no one will buy.

    • You’re quite right – I was interviewed for a piece in the Globe and Mail a couple of years ago that suggested (are you ready?) self-publishing might be a real thing.

      To be fair to the Globe, even going so far as to admit that is a HUGE step in Canada. None of the CBC’s multiple writing / arts / entertainment shows ever even whisper about self-pubbing.

      At any rate, the writer pretty quickly did the math that, Wow – I was making more from self-publishing than most midlist trad pubbed authors. I said, “Yes, and I get to really interact with my readers.” He said. “Whoa, OK. You lost me there. That’s my worst nightmare.”

      Circling back to your comment that in Canadian literary circles, as far as I can tell, it’s still not even a little bit about the paying customer.

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