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Breaking News: Streitfeld Admits That Amazon "Might" Not be Guilty of Censorship

streitfeld-topics-articleInline[1]If you were hoping that a public rebuke from the NY Times' public editor would restore some degree of balance to that august publication’s coverage of Amazon, I’m sorry but that hasn’t happened.

The media spokesperson for Authors United, David Streitfeld, is mixing it up again. He has a new post up on Sunday on the NY Times' Bits blog in which he continues to lay out how evil Amazon is evil.

Streitfeld doesn’t have as good of an argument to make this time around, so he rehashes past coverage, drags in irrelevant anecdotal stories, and closes out his piece with an argument of false equivalence.

Starting with the Le Guin quote in which she accuses Amazon of censorship, Streitfeld singles out the comment section for The Passive Voice blog for special attention:

Her statement was greeted with ridicule and outrage in the places on the Internet where those who use Amazon’s self-publishing platform hang out. Here are a few of the more printable commentsfrom the Passive Voice blog:

“She’s just mostly lying right there. That is all. LYING,” wrote Mir, an Amazon Kindle author.

“I’ve yet to see proof by anyone in Amazon/Hachette of any real active censorship, of making a book hard or impossible to get,” said theSFReader.

Hugh C. Howey, a sci-fi novelist, blamed Douglas Preston, the founder of a group of writers challenging Amazon, for misleading writers like Ms. Le Guin, who is the recipient of the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Other commenters were considerably less polite.

It’s not clear why he chose to focus in TPV (the people there are neither pundits nor spokespersons), but I can tell you that his implication that the selected comments were the more polite responses is largely nonsense. Alas, I can’t link to the blog and show you; that site is down as a result of the traffic sent its way.

But more importantly, Streitfeld continues to financial reiterate the damage that Amazon is doing to Hachette before finally admitting:

A delay in shipping may not be censorship.

If there is doubt, sir, as to whether shipping delays can be equated with censorship, sir, then why did you use that quote not once but twice now?

As I see it, he has admitted that his own past work is bogus, but sadly that isn’t stopping him from continuing to bash Amazon via a selective reporting of the story.

Speaking of which, Streitfeld has found new fodder for his campaign:

“It’s hard to compete with free,” said Laurann Dohner, a prolific and best-selling erotic romance writer who has been contending with that precise problem on Amazon.

Ms. Dohner is published by Ellora’s Cave, a pioneering e-book publisher that has experienced a general slowing of sales on Amazon, and is not sure why.

Anyone who doesn’t know that Ellora’s Cave revenues dropped as a result of unreasonably high prices and negative publicity from the libel lawsuit has to be living under a rock.

But of course Streitfeld already knows that; he goes on to hint at the reason that EC sales have dropped, while simultaneously making the disingenuous claim that Amazon refuses to speak to authors:

Plugging Ms. Dohner’s name into Amazon’s search engine returned the following list: two of her books, then two by other writers, another by Ms. Dohner, then three by others. Her e-books sell for $8 to $12. All of the other writers’ e-books are free.

She said she complained to Amazon. “They said they can’t tell me anything because my publisher is the one they deal with,” Ms. Dohner said. “Or I get told they don’t know. I feel like a participant in a game I didn’t sign up for.”  Her sales on Amazon have fallen sharply.

Except Dohner did sign up for it: she signed a contract with Ellora’s Cave. Or is she trying to claim that Ellora’s Cave is publishing her books without her permission? Now that would be newsworthy.

Streitfeld goes on to list a couple other examples where he tries to link a low stock situation with deliberate Amazon evilness, but I will skip them here and go to the last section of this screed.

Streitfeld ends his piece with a final dig at Hugh Howey. He uses selective quotation again to try to twist Hugh Howey’s words against him, resulting in Streitfeld making an argument of false equivalence:

Independent bookstores, Mr. Howey told Publishers Weekly in August, “blacklist my books,” presumably because they are self-published through their enemy Amazon. Physical bookstores, he wrote on his blog, “ban Amazon imprint titles.”

If you can appropriate your opponent’s arguments, you must be halfway to victory. And for the people defending Amazon, just like the people attacking it, success will be measured on the bottom line.

The problem with Streitfeld’s argument here is that it is an established fact that booksellers, including both indie and B&N, literally refused to carry titles published by Amazon.

Say what you will about Amazon, they have not refused to carry Hachette titles – yet.

Thanks, Dan!

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fjtorres October 13, 2014 um 3:07 pm

The only good thing that comes from those nitwit screeds is the snarky fiskings.
And new words and phrases, like Whale Math™.

(Which is probably why he targeted TPV since that’s where his penchant for false equivalences was first exposed.

I’ll bet that if we say it three times fast, he adds you to his target list.

Whale math, whale math, whale…?

Hmmm, of course, the invocation might bring out a troll from Drive-by Deb…

Your call, Natr. 🙂

puzzled October 13, 2014 um 3:52 pm

I’m starting to wonder of the whole anti-Amazon campaign is an attempt at the "Big Lie".

Unfortunately for them, the Big Lie only works if the people you are trying to 'convince' don’t have personal knowledge of the subject the Big Lie.

fjtorres October 13, 2014 um 5:09 pm

BTW, TPV is back up.
And the regulars are not amused at Streifeld’s tone and implications.

Tyler October 13, 2014 um 5:57 pm

I typed in Laurann Dohner name in Amazon searching for everything and the first response was one of her books and the second was her author page. I would say that it would be nice that her author page show up first but it seems very easy to find all of her books.

Angela Booth October 14, 2014 um 1:18 am

I keep telling myself not to read anything else on Amazon/ Hachette, nor anything from the pompous blowhards of Authors United and their idiotic conspiracy theories.

But I can’t resist… 🙂

Re "Laurann Dohner" I searched on Amazon. One of her $6.00 EC books came up first, then her author’s page.

She’s got 299 reviews for her book "Darkness: 12 (New Species)", which was published three weeks ago, and it’s ranked at #457 Paid in the Kindle Store.

So, she’s selling quite a few copies of it. Of course EC gets the money, which might be why she’s sour, if she’s not getting paid on time.

Whatever. The point is: her book’s selling — it must be, to be ranked at #457 Paid.

Why she’s whining that “It’s hard to compete with free,” is beyond me. Can’t she write a little something and post it for free to promote her ebooks?

Maybe she expects EC to do her thinking for her.

Mackay Bell October 14, 2014 um 1:44 am

It’s pretty disgusting negative spin. Basically, he’s trying to make it look like a lot of self-publishers are beating up a nice award winning literary lady and then trying to mix Hugh’s name in several times as if he’s somehow responsible. All the while, blurring the real issue, which is the nice old lady was provably wrong when she said Amazon was censoring and disappearing writers.

I read most of the comments on PV when the story first broke and they weren’t "less polite." PV isn’t 4chan. The general tone is pretty sophisticated and people usually stick to the issues rather than attack personalities. That being said, it’s a community discussion site and people should be allowed to say what they want. Especially given that the nice old lady was at best willfully misinformed.

This continues the basic PR message the anti-self-publishing crowd is trying to push forward. They try to portray self-publishers as "angry" for defending themselves. And rather than quote crafted commentary and opinion, like the editorials here, on Hugh Howey’s blog, JK and the rest, they snatch an anonymous quote from the comments. This way they can try to find the most extreme position, and attack it, while also giving the impression this is all angry chatter, rather than part of a real network of information and opinion that is more detailed and accurate than what the NY Times is writing on the same subject.

TheSFReader October 14, 2014 um 9:28 am

Since *I* am no journalist, I think I’m allowed to be partial oustside of an edito, so I’ll choose my own quotes too:

Agreed. She seems to be making some very exaggerated claims in that statement. While it is very quotable (and thus managed to get into the article), it seems to be intent on escalating the hysteria rather than conveying actual information about what is actually going on. I have no doubt that Ms Le Guin is concerned about that potential aspect of this commercial dispute, but as you I expected something better.
and later :
Ms. Le Guin is certainly a “smart cookie”, but she has a real passion regarding anything that smacks of censorship. If this was presented to her in a way that made her reach that conclusion (as appears to be the case), I could certainly see her going on the attack for that reason. That she is mistaken in that conclusion is obvious to us, but she probably hasn’t seen both sides of this disagreement.

(by Shelly Thacker)
I’m just gonna pretend I didn’t see Ms. LeGuin’s name in this article. Mentally erasing it now. Nope, don’t see it anymore. La la la. She’s been one of my favorite authors since I was 12. She’s almost 85 years old, and I can’t bear to see her being used by this band of bozos to further their ill-informed agenda.

(by Anon. Author)
It makes me sad to see Ursula LeGuin signing onto this and turning it into an issue of “censorship”. I was privileged to interview her for an article I wrote on women in SF and I have the greatest respect for her as an author. However, it demeans the real censorship going on in the world to equate it to what is happening in the Amazon-Hachette contract dispute. I could claim that I am being censored because bookstores will not stock my Createspace print books because of old disputes with Amazon. This is business, not politics, Ms. LeGuin. Censorship is a whole different kettle of fish and for you to try to lump this in with what is happening in countries like Pakistan and China and other repressive regimes is a real shame and totally bogus.

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