Lee Child on Amazon: a Fisking
Of the 909 authors who signed that full page advert slash open letter against Amazon, Lee Child is one of the most respected, admired, and articulate. So when I learned (via The Passive Voice) that he had given an interview on BBC Newsnight and explained why he had signed that letter, I was eager to find out why.
And now I wish I hadn’t.
Mr Child uses one ridiculous argument after another. After having watched the interview (embedded below), I now grasp why people have told me that they plan to never buy/read the books written by the authors who signed that letter.
To start, this is how he views the situation vis-à-vis the 909 authors and Amazon:
"I’ve got a lot of good friends there. But the point is exactly that: If you have a good friend who is misbehaving, you don’t immediately shoot them in the head and bury them in the woods. You take them aside and you have a quiet word with them. You say, come on, pal, you’re out of line – shape up and behave properly. And that’s me and the other 900 authors are saying."
Apparently Mr Child thinks spending a hundred thousand dollars on a full page advert in the Sunday NYTimes is the equivalent of having a quiet word with Amazon.
He’s joking, right? I mean, that last sentence has to be the punchline, right?
There’s simply no other explanation for it. And since I just rolled a SAN check, I know that I’m good, so I have to wonder how Mr Child thought that statement makes any sense.
And that’s not the only crazy statement he made:
" They are squeezing the customer most of all by depriving the customer of what she wants, and this is the very bizarre thing. … The customer wants the books that she wants to read, and Amazon is not delivering them right now because of this row."
But, but, but – Amazon isn’t depriving customers of anything.
Somehow Mr Child has forgotten that Amazon is not the only retailer in the world. He has confused Amazon not having a title in stock with the customer not being able to shop anywhere else – not even with the marketplace sellers on Amazon.com. Amazon isn’t going to slap my hand if I go to another website and buy a title that is out of stock on Amazon.com. So no, this customer is not being deprived.
And right after Mr Child demonstrated that he didn’t understand how people shop for stuff, he showed that he doesn’t understand economics either:
Interviewer: If someone cant afford it at 10 or 20, they can afford it (Mr Child’s new book) at 8 pounds, and you get a new reader.
Child: I don’t think there is a significant number of people who are going to say that 8 pounds are that much better than 10, having bought the machine in the first place for however much that was.
Apparently Mr Child is under the mistaken impression that his book is being sold in isolation. He forgets that his expensive ebook is competing against cheaper ebooks, so rather than a consumer making a binary decision to buy or not buy Mr Child’s book, said consumer is deciding which of a hundred possible ebooks they might buy.
In that situation, cheaper ebooks have a clear advantage. So yes, 8 pounds is that much better than 10 pounds. (And I don’t even know how to address his assumption that books have to be expensive; I’m stumped.)
All in all, I regret having had to watch the interview below. While I have discussed that letter with several authors who signed it, Mr Child is the first author where I can’t simply respectfully disagree.