Fitting Amazon for The Black Hat?
Recently Barnes & Noble announced that it would not sell books in its brick and mortar store that are published by Amazon’s new print publishing division.
They made this decision due to “Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent.” Because B&N cannot offer these ebooks to their customers, they believe that Amazon is denying many people from having access to the content. And, further, that “[Amazon’s] actions have undermined the industry as a whole.
Shortly after this, Books-a-Million and Canada’s largest bookseller, Indigo Books and Music, also announced that they were joining the boycott. The American Booksellers Association has recently gotten in on the act as well. Indigo believes that “Amazon’s actions are not in the long-term interests of the reading public and book retailing industry.”
Amazon has, indeed, signed exclusive deals with popular authors such as Ian McEwen and Timothy Ferris.
And if that weren’t interesting enough, rumors are afloat that Amazon is to open brick and mortar stores, starting with one in Seattle. One theory floating around is that they would create small stores, with low inventory, and showcase the Kindle and Kindle Fire. Another theory also involves small inventory, showcasing not just the Kindle but also their own publishing line. And offer a physical place where people could order from Amazon.com. Presumably this would be if folks just happened to be out and about since we can already do this from, well, anywhere.
And oh, by the way, Amazon also struck a deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for HMH to publish and distribute the titles from Amazon’s East Coast publishing office.
These are, indeed, interesting times we live in. Have you ever heard of an instance like this? In ANY industry? Competitor B launches a boycott of competitor A, paints it as being for the good of the industry, and gets support from other competitors? Not I.
Questions abound here, of course. Such as: Where is the line between B&N’s (and the other sellers') self-interest and their passion for the good of the industry? It isn’t just that readers will be denied access to certain content, it’s that B&N can’t make money by selling that content.
Another question I have is this: Is anybody upset with the authors that signed those exclusive deals? No doubt, Amazon waved lots of money in front of them, but why should Amazon be the only one who must care about the “good of the industry"? Surely these authors, and their agents, are smart enough to realize the short- and long-term impact on a struggling industry of exclusive deals like this? Don’t they bear some responsibility here?
By no means do I like what Amazon is doing with exclusive deals. Look out, but here comes another parallel to the music industry. Major outlets like Wal-Mart, Target and Starbucks all sell exclusive versions of CDs. If you still buy CDs and want that content, you must go to one of those places.
It’s always been the American way that the ones with the biggest piles of money get to call the shots. Certainly, in recent years, the few with more have gotten bigger and bigger shares of any pot. The rate of income increase for the 1% far outstrips the 99%. It should not come as a shock that Amazon is increasingly throwing its weight around. Apple does it, Google does it….
Don’t like it? Do your own personal boycott. Find an independent bookstore and give them your credit card for some of your purchases. I’ll even recommend one for you— the St. Mark’s Bookshop.
He is currently Production Director for Teachers College Press. Previously, he was Vice President, Global Content and Media Production for Cengage Learning. Prior to that he was Vice President of Production and Manufacturing for Oxford University Press, Pearson/Prentice Hall, Worth Publishers and HarperCollins.
In those capacities, he has been a leader in managing process and content for delivery in as many ways possible.