David Leonhardt Wants to Save Barnes & Noble, But Has to Make Up Stuff About Amazon to Justify It
The NY Times has published some stinker editorials lately (Ross Douthat’s piece springs to mind), including an editorial by David Leonhardt that was published on the NYTimes site yesterday.
Leonhardt wants to save Barnes & Noble by punishing Amazon for being a better bookseller. He wants regulators to step in and use antitrust law to spank Amazon and (I think) force Amazon to raise prices. He isn’t clear on that point, and Leonhardt also fails to explain how this would help Barnes & Noble given that consumers have shown they do not want to shop at the failing retailer, or why B&N deserves this special treatment.
The piece demonstrates muddy-headed thinking all around, including in its litany of Amazon’s supposed misdeeds, where Leonhardt tosses out falsehoods and industry myths left and right.
Leonhardt starts by claiming that Amazon "has never run into antitrust scrutiny" when it has been investigated at least once (during the Apple price-fixing investigation, and possibly a second time when the Authors United astroturfing group was making a spectacle in 2014 through 2016).
He then claims Amazon is losing money on book sales when in fact a DOJ investigation showed Amazon hadn’t been losing money on ebooks at the time the DOJ charged the Price Fix Six. (There is zero evidence on Amazon’s print book revenues one way or the other).
Leonhardt goes on to blame Amazon for Borders’s bad business decision and failure and for publishers abandoning mid-list authors. He is also under the mistaken impression that there are fewer professional authors now than before.
It’s really hard to take Leonhardt seriously after he made that claim; it shows that he didn’t do his research.
The thing is, there are more pro authors now than before Amazon got into ebooks.
Amazon has in fact created opportunities for authors to bypass gatekeepers and bring books to market. Authors get to keep a greater share of the revenues than if they signed with a publisher, which means there are more commercially viable books than before (and not less, as Leonhardt believes).
All in all, this piece is little more than the same old recycled ADS (Amazon derangement syndrome) tripe that we have seen before from the legacy publishing industry. It accomplishes nothing more than showing no one can make a good argument that Amazon is anything more than just unpopular among a small segment of the publishing industry whose sinecures have been disrupted by Amazon.
What Leonhardt is really saying by repeating the gripes of the legacy publishing industry is that Amazon is guilty of"felony interference with a business model", which is another way of saying that Amazon’s disruptions have cost legacy publishers revenue, status, and marketshare.
As much as they may wish it were, this is not actually a crime.
image by THE Holy Hand Grenade!