Ursula K LeGuin has published a post today which pins the blame for all that is wrong in bookselling on Amazon:
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.
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.
You can find the post over on the Book View Cafe’s blog, but seriously folks, it is even more crazy sounding than the excerpt. This is one of those articles which you have to read a second time, just o make sure you didn’t start hallucinating halfway through.
It is almost as if LeGuin was in a coma for the past 40 years. and just now woke up and looked at book publishing. She makes crazy claims like “you can’t buy and read a book that hasn’t been kept in print” which ignore the realities of modern technologies, she glosses over the fact that the major bookstore chains created the Best Seller Machine over thirty years ago, and she takes issue with the idea that publishers are businesses and thus need to turn a profit.
If this were a satirical work of fiction, it would be one of the more subtle jokes of the year and a great commentary on the book industry. Alas, I think LeGuin is serious.
But hey, that’s her thing, and she’s welcome to keep doing it.
The rest of us, including authors making a living independent of the BS Machine, readers who find decades-old and out-of-print books via Amazon, and the booksellers who are thriving online, are doing just fine.
LeGuin may think the current book industry is a post apocalyptic wasteland, but for those of us who enjoying the ability to buy almost any book ever published in the US and enjoying the opportunity to produce more works, it looks like a utopia.
Or am I wrong?
found via The Passive Voice
image by jackieleigh