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