Friday, January 15, 2016

Freedom of Expression?

A guest post by frequent contributor to this blog, Barry Eisler. I chime in midway.

Barry sez: I just learned about an event put on by an organization called New America (formerly The New America Foundation): Amazon’s Book Monopoly: A Threat to Freedom of Expression? Ordinarily, propaganda is something that concerns me, but when it veers this far off into parody, I sometimes welcome it as a comic diversion.

Because, come on, putting your tendentious conclusion right there in the title and disguising it as a question, while an impressively textbook instance of question-begging, in this context is also pretty funny. Because, “Hey, we’ve already established that Amazon is a monopoly; we’re just here to determine how much of a threat the company poses to Freedom and All That Is Good. Is it an existential threat, like Roger Cohen said about ISIS? Or merely an extremely threatening threat?”

And who knows, maybe they’ll answer the question, “No,” right? Maybe the panelists will decide that Amazon’s “book monopoly” is actually a benefit to freedom of expression, as monopolies often are. It’s not as though they’ve structured things so that the question answers itself, and I don’t know why anyone would suspect this panel might be anything other than a diverse collection of open-minded people honestly engaging in free inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge wherever the facts may lead!

Thanks to the efforts of serious-sounding organizations like New America (and if that vague but happy-sounding name didn’t cause your bullshit detector to at least tingle, it should—see also Americans for Prosperity and the Center for American Progress), this “Amazon is a Monopoly” silliness is so persistent that Joe and I dealt with it in our inaugural post on zombie memes—“arguments that just won’t die no matter how many times they’re massacred by logic and evidence.” Half the purpose of the Zombie Meme series is to save Joe and me from having to repeat ourselves, so if you want to have a laugh about why, despite its persistence, “Amazon is a Monopoly” is so embarrassingly dumb and misguided, here’s your link.

But here’s the amazing part: “Amazon is a monopoly” is actually the clever half of the event’s title. The really funny part is what follows: that Amazon poses a threat to freedom of expression!

As I said in a previous Techdirt guest post called Authors Guilded, United, and Representing…Not:

Given that Amazon’s self-publishing platform enables all authors to publish whatever they like and leaves it to readers to decide what books they themselves find beneficial, while the New York Big Five (no concentrated market power in a group with a name like that!) has historically rejected probably 999 books for every one they deem worthy of reaching the public, a few questions present themselves. Such as:

                     Who has really been “manipulating and supervising the sale of books and therefore affecting the exchange of ideas in America,” and who has really “established effective control of a medium of communication”—an entity that screens out 99.9% of books, or one that has enabled the publication of any book?

                     Who has really been running an uncompetitive, controlled, supervised, distorted market for books—a company dedicated to lower prices, or a group calling itself the Big Five that has been found guilty of conspiracy and price fixing?

                     Who is really restoring freedom of choice, competition, vitality, diversity, and free expression in the American book market—an entity that consigns to oblivion 999 books out of a thousand, or one that enables the publication of all of them?

                     And who is really ensuring that the American people determine for themselves how to take advantage of the new technologies of the 21st Century—an entity responsible for zero innovation and dedicated to preserving the position of paper, or one that has popularized a new publishing and reading platform that for the first time offers readers an actual choice of formats?

Think about it. This “New America” organization has put together a panel dedicated to persuading you that there was more freedom of expression when an incestuous group of five Manhattan-based corporations held the power to disappear 999 books out every thousand written, and indeed performed that disappearance as the group’s core function (they call this “curation”). And that, now that Amazon’s KDP platform has enabled all authors to publish virtually anything they want, freedom of expression is being threatened.

 For an organization calling itself “New America,” these jokers sure seem wedded to the old version.

In fairness to New America, I should note that their worldview is hardly unprecedented. The notion that the traditional way of doing things is ipso facto the best way of doing things was lampooned by Voltaire over 150 years ago through his character Dr. Pangloss, who was convinced (before experience in the world introduced doubts) that “All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” And Pangloss was himself based on the religious philosophy known as theodicy—a word coined over 300 years ago to describe a kind of faith that’s doubtless as old as the human race (and a word I admit I like because it sounds a bit like “idiocy”).

In fact, it was as recent as, say, the 1950s that a group of tweed-jacketed, straight white male college professors were genuinely convinced that the collection of books they deemed the most intrinsically worthy—all, coincidentally, written by other straight white males—represented the maximally possible amount of valuable expression, information, and ideas. They even called their collection the “canon,” which I admit did tend to make their subjective choices sound important and even divinely ordained. As people came to question the absence of women and minority writers from this collection selected exclusively by straight white males, I imagine the straight white males genuinely believed that broadening the “canon” to include women and minorities was a threat to freedom of expression and all that. This is just the way a lot of people are wired, especially when status and privilege are part of the mix.

And really, you do have to take a moment to applaud the mental gymnastics required of otherwise presumably intelligent people to say shit like “more authors writing more books reaching more readers is threatening freedom of expression, the flow of information, and the marketplace of ideas.” It’s War is Peace/Ignorance is Strength/Freedom is Slavery level doublethink. On the one hand, it’s sad, but on the other hand, in all the universe could there be a race as capable as humans of clinging so resolutely to faith in the face of so many contrary facts? Seen in this light, there’s something tragically beautiful about it.

And while I admit that New America’s “day is night, black is white” bizarro worldview isn’t easy to parody, I can’t resist trying. So…

Coming up next from New America: The Internet’s Dictatorial Grip: Impeding Access to Information? And The Tyranny of the Cell Phone: Shutting Down Communication? And Our Addiction to Paved Roads: A Threat to Freedom of Movement?

One more thing about this event that’s unintentionally hilarious, and then I need to get back to something worthwhile (AKA, the new manuscript). Take a look at the guest list. If you hired a team of NASA scientists to design the most rabidly, incestuously anti-Amazon panel possible, this is pretty much the group the team would propose. Though I doubt even the scientists (assuming they had a little dignity) would have gone to far as to bring in Douglas Preston and his literary agent, Eric Simonoff. I mean, this is getting pretty close to just adding clones of existing panelists and eliminating the last fluttering fig leaf of diversity.

They also have the dean of the Amazon Derangement crowd, Scott Turow. And Franklin Foer, who in fairness should be disqualified from even being on this panel because of his claim—in his much-derided “Let us kneel down before Amazon” screed—that “That term [monopoly] doesn’t get tossed around much these days, but it should”!

By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Foer makes the same cringe-worthy claim again, on this very “Amazon is a Monopoly” panel. The anti-Amazon crowd has never been particularly educable.

Also present will be Mark Coker, the head of Smashwords, an Amazon competitor. And author Susan Cheever, a member of Authors United, an organization that represents pretty much the platonic ideal of Amazon Derangement Syndrome. A couple of anti-trust lawyers to provide a veneer of legal gravitas (and to troll for clients, no doubt). And a second-year law student named Lina Khan who has argued that Amazon “should alarm us.”

And that’s it. That’s as diverse and wide-ranging as the lineup gets. The full gamut of viewpoints, from A…all the way to B.

Although really, even that feels a little generous.

Oh, by the way, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, another Amazon competitor, is the chairman of New America’s board of directors, too. No conflict of interest there. Nothing to disclose to anyone who might think this is some sort of disinterested, scholarly event.

So yeah, it’s really that much of a hive-mind lineup. But that’s not even the best part. The best part is, this remarkably insular and incestuous exercise in groupthink has been assembled to speak out against a purported threat to…freedom of expression! The flow of information! And the marketplace of ideas!

None of this is an accident, by the way. It isn’t just stupidity and incompetence. There’s a reason organizations will try to take a narrow outlook and propagate it through multiple mouthpieces: doing so can create the impression that a rare and radical notion is in fact widely held—held even by ostensibly disparate groups—and therefore more trustworthy. Indeed, this form of propaganda is a favorite of some of the same reactionary groups New America is showcasing on its panel. As I said recently about the supposedly “unprecedented joint action” of some booksellers, authors, and agents complaining together about Amazon:

Which brings us to the second revealing aspect of this “propaganda masquerading as an interview” drill. You see, in the standard “blow-job masquerading as interview” gambit, it’s generally enough to hope the reader will just assume the interviewer and interviewee are working at arms-length. Making the point explicitly isn’t really the done thing. Here, however, perhaps not trusting readers to be sufficiently gulled, the ABA and AG are at pains to describe the “unprecedented joint action” of the AG, Authors United, the ABA, and the Association of Authors’ Representatives in going after Amazon for monopolizing the marketplace of ideas, devaluing books, and generally crushing dissent, democracy, and all that is good. The impression they’re trying to create is, “Wow, if so many separate organizations hate Amazon, Amazon must be doing something bad.”

But what’s critical to understand is that the most fundamental purpose of the Authors Guild, Authors United, the American Booksellers Association, and the Association of Authors is to preserve the publishing industry in its current incarnation. Whatever marginal differences they might have (I’ve never actually seen any, but am happy to acknowledge the theoretical possibility) are eclipsed by this commonality of purpose. Under the circumstances, the fact that these four legacy publisher lobbyists agree on something is entirely unremarkable (indeed, what would be remarkable would be some evidence of division). But if people recognize the exercise as a version of “No really, I read it somewhere…okay, I wrote it down first,” the propaganda fizzles. And that’s why these propagandists have to nudge readers with the bullshit about the “unprecedented joint action.” Otherwise, when Authors Guild Executive Director Mary Rasenberger cites Authors United pitchman Doug Preston as though Preston were a separate, credible source, people might roll their eyes instead of nodding at the seriousness of it all. They might even giggle at the realization that all those “When did Amazon stop beating its wife?” questions were functionally being put by Rasenberger to herself.

So no, this wasn’t remotely a cross-examination, or even a cross pollination (indeed, publisher lobbyists are expert at fleeing anything that offers even the slightest whiff of actual debate—which does make their alleged devotion to the Free Flow of Ideas and Information as the Engine of Democracy worthy of a smile, at least, if nothing else). It was just a stump speech lovingly hosted by someone else’s blog. The sole reason for the exercise was to create the misleading appearance of multiple, arms-length actors when functionally there is only one.

In fairness to the aforementioned Unprecedentedly Joint Actors, there is a rich heritage behind this form of propaganda. For example, in the run-up to America’s second Iraq war, Dick Cheney would have someone from his office phone up a couple of pet New York Times reporters, who would then dutifully report that anonymous administration officials believed Saddam Hussein had acquired aluminum tubes as part of his nuclear weapons efforts…and then Cheney would go on all the Sunday morning talk shows and get to say, “Don’t take my word for the aluminum tube stuff—even the New York Times is reporting it!”

So leave aside the fact that the “joint action” in question is anything but unprecedented—that it is in fact publishing establishment SOP. Anyone familiar with the record of these organizations will instantly realize that the “unprecedented joint action” in question is a lot like the “joint action” of all four fingers—plus the thumb!—of someone throwing back a shot of tequila. Like that of a little boy pleasuring himself—with both hands!—and trying to convince anyone who will listen that the Unprecedented Left and Right Action is proof that “Everybody loves me!”

Okay, I apologize for the multiple excerpts from previous posts. But what are you going to do? These bloviators keep vomiting up the same tired bullshit, no matter how many times it’s debunked. It just saves time to refer to the previous debunkings rather than typing it all out again.

My advice to New America? If you’re more than just a propaganda operation—if you really do care about freedom of expression, and the flow of information, and the marketplace of ideas—you might want to add at least a token panelist with a viewpoint that differs even just a tiny bit from that of the nine Borg you’ve assembled to intone that Amazon Is Evil and Will Destroy All That Is Good. Otherwise, your event is going to feel more like a circle jerk and less like sex. And, doubtless, with similarly productive results.

Joe sez: And just when I think I’m out…

Thanks, Barry, for turning a spotlight on this silliness, and patiently picking apart why it is so silly. I’m sure the panel will be a resounding success, much like all circle jerks and echo chambers are for those involved. Masturbation is supposed to be satisfying, and a nice “atta boy!” and backslap at the finish seems preferable to eating the soggy biscuit.

Don’t Google that if you don’t know what I mean. You can’t unlearn it.

One of the reasons I’ve largely eschewed activism lately is because I haven’t seen any ill effects from all the Amazon bashing being done by the usual spin doctoring suspects.

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, the propaganda classic Triumph of the Will was just released on BluRay for the first time. It’s an effective piece of filmmaking, and Frank Capra imitated a lot of elements from it for his Why We Fight series.

It worked. And it is still being imitated today, both as a film, and as propaganda. Fear mongering is an old standby for getting people on your side. I wrote a whole post about alarmist terminology and spin

But I don’t think this approach works when it comes to Amazon. People aren’t so ready to buy what the pinheads are selling. Today we can have the New York Times, which I believe still has the motto “All the news that’s fit to print”, show such stunning anti-Amazon bias that the public editor has called it out more than once, and the public simply doesn’t give a shit. Amazon still gets their approval and their business, no matter how many times David Streitfeld one-finger-types his screeds while busting out knuckle babies with his other hand.

The public likes Amazon. Even if it were true that Amazon is planning to overthrow the government and replace the Bill of Rights with a guarantee of same day free shipping, its approval rating is so high that I don’t think most folks would care.

But for all the alarmist rhetoric and soothsaying predictions of world domination, I’ve yet to see anyone other than Big 5 apologists and their NY media cronies show much concern over Amazon’s mounting dominance of online retail.

Maybe that’s because—wild guess here—Amazon offers authors unprecedented opportunity to reach readers, and offers readers the widest selection at the lowest possible prices coupled with good customer service.

Authors United, and the NYT, are doing everything they’re supposed to be doing to spread their anti-Zon propaganda, but the people don’t care.

If I had faith in human nature, I’d posit that access to the Internet (and the ability for anyone with second grade spelling skills to type words into a search engine) can reveal in a click or two what utter nonsense the morons are spouting.

But I think the more realistic answer is that people simply like Amazon because it has a wide selection, low prices, and good customer service.

So I no longer feel the need to correct the greedy, self-interested 1% of authors who want to prop up an archaic, inefficient, and ruthless publishing industry with stupid organizations and articles and events. Joe Average might very well read about this panel in a Streitfeld spat of “journalism”, cluck his tongue at how Amazon is destroying freedom of expression, and then quickly forget about it when the UPS guy knocks on the door with a box of Bounty because yesterday Joe used his Amazon Dash button to order more.

The legacy publishing industry is dying. Once it lost its lock on distribution, it lost the majority of its power. The only ones who will mourn that industry are the few handfuls of authors it made rich. And when their corporate masters merge and downsize into inevitable bankruptcy, watch how quickly they jump on Amazon’s teat when the seven figure advances are gone.

But, for old times’ sake, let me fisk New American’s event description. Their nonsense in italics, my replies in regular font.

Amazon dominates the U.S. book market to a degree never before seen in America.

But does it dominate the U.S. book market to a degree never before seen in Canada?

Okay, I’m making fun of the lousy sentence, but isn’t that like saying “In my house I dusted the bookcases to a degree never before seen in my house?”

That's silly. Especially since I switched to ebooks and got rid of my bookcases.

This corporation dominates every key segment of the market.

Wow, that's a lot of dominance. I hope the public has a safeword.

We had a cartel dominating publication and distribution for decades. It was an oligopoly called the Big 6. Not only did it reject a high percentage of books submitted to it—which can be argued is a form of censorship—but when it accepted a book it fucked the author in the ass with unconscionable, one-sided contract terms. Terms even the Big 5 enamored Authors Guild has spoken out against.

And this immense size gives Amazon unprecedented power to manipulate the flow of books – hence of information and ideas – between author and reader.

OK, reread what Barry and I have written here. For over a hundred years, publishers have refused to publish the overwhelming majority of books, essentially preventing the public from ever reading them. They had a right to do that, just like Chick-Fil-A has a right to be closed on Sundays for ridiculous religious reasons.

But unlike the Big 6, or Chick-Fil-A, Amazon is allowing more traffic than ever before. More books are flowing with Amazon than flowed with the Big 6.

Plus, Amazon isn’t a monopoly, and doesn’t control the Internet, so if there were cases where Amazon decides it doesn’t want to sell something, it can’t prevent it from being sold elsewhere.

Last summer a group of authors made the case that Amazon’s actions constitute an abuse of its monopoly powers and threatens this vital marketplace of ideas.

It was a shitty case. But let’s not allow facts to get in the way of good propaganda. Because if you keep repeating the same lie, some people are bound to start believing it. 

Unless they're Prime members. Then they'll cluck their tongues and ask Alexa to pre-order the new Barry Eilser book,

Amazon’s actions, they wrote, may already be affecting what authors write and say.

As evidenced by Amazon refusing to sell any work by any signatory of Authors United.

Oh… wait.

But look how Amazon has forced writers to cower in the shadows, fearful of offering any sort of critique.

Oh… wait.

Hmm. Doesn’t a panel about Amazon restricting freedom of expression prove that Amazon can’t restrict freedom of expression? Or if it can, doesn’t want to?

Oops, my bad. They used the word "may". So it could read "may already be affecting what authors write and say, even though there is no evidence or logic to support that conclusion." Like someday I "may" own my own country, which I'll name Joetopia and make our main export beer parties. If you'd like Joetopia to export a beer party to you, let me know because it "may" happen. Wait by the phone until you hear back.

The authors strongly urged antitrust regulators to take action, in what would be the most important antitrust case since Microsoft in the late 1990s.

Except for the tiny little fact that, you know, THERE IS NO CASE.

Barry and I take a lot of time to add these links to prove out points. You diligent readers are clicking on them, right?

Join New America’s Open Markets program for a discussion of Amazon’s monopoly over books and what it means for American readers and America’s democracy.

For God’s sake, someone think of the children! Because an online retailer is all that stands between the freedom to vote for representatives in government (that's the definition of democracy), and a zombie world where neighbors feast on neighbors and the only law comes from the business end of a twelve gauge. Because that argument makes as much sense as theirs.

Some of the nation’s best-known authors will discuss their personal experiences with Amazon.

And nary a one with a contrary point of view! Perhaps because they couldn't find any author with a good personal experience with Amazon. I mean, other than a hundred thousand or four. But I'm sure New America has much better things to do with their time than a little research.

Antitrust lawyers and experts in Big Data and price discrimination will then discuss the larger effects of the corporation’s behavior, and whether the government should bring a case against Amazon.

With Data so Big it’s Capitalized! Did that become a thing and I missed it?

And what could they possibly say in regard to price discrimination? Amazon fights to keep prices low. The Big 6 fight to keep them high. They illegally collude to keep them high. They print the prices on their damn books to keep them high.

Could they be going into the nefarious business practice of co-op, and Amazon charging publishers for better visibility? Is that the discrimination they mean? Or maybe loss leads?

Last I checked, both were not only legal, but commonplace in retailers.

I wonder what the antitrust lawyers will say about Amazon allowing anyone to sell through Amazon. In other words, if Amazon decided it no longer wanted to sell Big 6 titles, I could open up an Amazon seller account and sell Big 6 titles on Amazon. Can someone explain to me how that limits the flow of books between reader and author?

Follow the discussion online using #BookMonopoly and follow us @NewAmerica.

No thanks. But here's a hashtag you can follow: #StoptheStupid.

Lunch will be provided.

And it will be the only substantive thing offered that afternoon.

Now I’m going back to my WIP. When the NYT write-up of this stupid event runs, I’m going to ignore it.


William Ockham said...

My favorite part of this is trivial, but amusing to me. At the top of the page for this event, there is link called Resilient Systems. It's a broken link. A broken link to a page for "Resilient Systems" really sums it up.

Randall J. Morris said...

If we're letting second-year law students weigh in on this now, I want in. I'm a second-year law student and I already addressed AU's ridiculous letter to the DOJ here:

It was featured on Joe's first zombie meme blog post. I've written two more since then dealing with the AG, AU, and whatever-the-hell other organizations since then:

The Amicus Brief that AU wasted a lot of money writing for Apple v. United States (they even hired an expensive attorney this time)

Amazon's Single Physical Book Store under the Robinson-Patman Act

Legally, these groups have no case. I don't know why they think that if they keep yelling loudly enough, it will somehow change how the courts have already ruled.

Nadai said...

Don’t Google that if you don’t know what I mean.

Why do I never heed these warnings?

Joe Konrath said...

I don't know why they think that if they keep yelling loudly enough, it will somehow change how the courts have already ruled.

Hence the term "propaganda".

Ryan Crown said...

Coming up next from New America: The Internet’s Dictatorial Grip: Impeding Access to Information? And The Tyranny of the Cell Phone: Shutting Down Communication? And Our Addiction to Paved Roads: A Threat to Freedom of Movement?

Gotta admit, it made for quite the fun little mental exercise to try and come up with justifications for these. I mean, the number of places you can reach via roads is significantly smaller than the number of places you can't, so logic clearly dictates paved roads really is a threat to our freedom of movement. The math doesn't lie! ;-)

More seriously, I really do appreciate your efforts to keep us informed of these groups and their idiocy (even if you are preaching to the choir). Keep up the great work! Your blog is high on my list of favorite writer resources.

SpringfieldMH said...

Looked the list of participants over to see if even one could be described as neutral or pro-Amazon... maybe one... maybe.

And noticed that it is now "Douglas Preston - President of Authors United". Wasn't aware that the deniable action wing of the Authors Guild had incorporated or held an election.

John Ellsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
enabity said...

I don't know if you were serious about your commentary about big data, but it is a reference to Amazon's dominant share in the public cloud market. A lot of startups use Amazon as their data processing source for their web data mining efforts. This could be interpreted as control over information, though one would think that the people designing the algorithms rather than the company that runs their data center have control over the information.

Nathaniel Hoffelder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathaniel Hoffelder said...

I'm not surprised that they could not find anyone to argue the other side (assuming they bothered to look). This topic has been debated so much that it has been worn out. There's nothing left to say, which is why I declared the topic dead at BEA 2015 in May.

That panel couldn't summon up anything other than cliches and recycled arguments from that tired corpse.

Still, I am not surprised that someone trotted out the embalmed corpse for another showing.

Walter Knight said...

How long before the Big 5 becomes the Big 4? Yes, I'm vindictive.

Walter Knight said...

What does the Big 5 really want? Government action to destroy evil corporation Amazon. Which party will they pander to for that goal? It's kind of ironic when you've figured that one out.

Lou Cadle said...

This endless repetition of "Amazon is a monopoly" reminds me of being in second grade and yelling at each other across the playground that "Dougie has cooties," in that:

1) We meant to taunt
2) repetitively (indeed, to the point of tedium), and yet
3) we had no idea what "cooties" were.

If I agreed with these people, I'm still not sure what I am supposed to do as a "New" Americans. (Question regarding membership: does one absolutely need to qualify for a senior discount to be a "New" American?) Cancel my Prime account and all the amazing benefits that come with it? Spend eight hours at local shopping and gallons of non-renewable fuel trying to find something no store will have, instead of clicking "buy" within seconds? Stop making a decent living as a writer and get in the queue of less experienced writers with my next book, to beg at the door of agencies so some 23-year-old assistant can reject a novel that would likely have earned me thousands in the time it took to get the rejection? Burn my Kindle as rock and roll records have often been burned?

As a reader, should I let my eyes glaze over and repeat in a monotone: "Yes, I would much rather spend $14 on an ebook than $3 on one at least as good?" Do they expect hordes of gullible authors and readers to give up something wonderful to appease an industry that is going the way of the dinosaur? Whatever their hope, however risible it is, is there a clear call to action? Is it all just "Amazon has cooties!" or is there a point?

One obvious CtA would be to tell writers, "Prevent the dystopian future we know is coming. Don't sell at Amazon." As you point out, these two authors should stop selling at Amazon to lead the parade. I would wait with bated breath, but I need the oxygen.

Smart Debut Author said...

I've learned one thing for sure from all this:

Lincoln Child is clearly the brains of the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child writing team. :D

David VanDyke said...

...and Henry Ford is a threat to mobility, as all those annoying cars will get in the way of our horses and buggies. Oh, and the buggy whip industry will be devastated.

Jealousy+envy+self-inflicted declining revenues=screed.

See: Who Moved My Cheese?

Wayne McDonald said...

I'd like to be on the panel for "Our Addiction to Paved Roads: A Threat to Freedom of Movement?". Even though I don't drive, and am in Canada. My argument? If I did drive, in the US, the existence of roads and the fascist laws supporting them means I can't drive on the sidewalks, through people's yards, down the hallways of shopping centers and other places I want to go.

I don't believe there is any need for further arguments on how roads run roughshod over my Freedom of Movement.

Anthea Strrzze said...

Re: Big Data, they might also be planning to argue that Amazon's own use of customer data to, say, suggest additional titles, is somehow unethical...

Terrence OBrien said...

Last summer a group of authors made the case that Amazon’s actions constitute an abuse of its monopoly powers and threatens this vital marketplace of ideas.

And we learned nobody gives a hoot what a bunch of authors think about anything.

Adrian said...

Given that 30% of my ebook sales don't come from Amazon, it's hard for me to imagine a persuasive argument that Amazon has a monopoly on ebook sales.

Though it also makes me wonder why so many authors sign up to have their works exclusively on Kindle. Isn't 30% more readers better, in the long run, than the extra bucks Amazon might throw you for being exclusive?

Mark Edward Hall said...

Adrien said: "Isn't 30% more readers better, in the long run, than the extra bucks Amazon might throw you for being exclusive?"

60% of my income through Amazon comes from Kindle Unlimited. Going wide doesn't even come close to that. At least not for me. I know, I've tried several times and always ended up going back exclusive.

When Kobo and Google and itunes can match that, I'll go wide again. And you can forget about Barnes & Noble. They're like a dying fish flopping on shore.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Amazon still gets their approval and their business, no matter how many times David Streitfeld one-finger-types his screeds while busting out knuckle babies with his other hand.

ROTFL. Funniest thing I've read in awhile...

G. B. Miller said...

Doesn't all this nonsense (and as an avid reader of this blog, this is the impression I'm receiving) boiling down to the very tired cliché, if you don't like, you don't have to do/watch/listen. No one is forcing you to do anything you don't want to do.

Father Nature's Corner

Joe Konrath said...

No one is forcing you to do anything you don't want to do.

True. But when pinheads are trying to influence government action which will be harmful to the vast majority of authors, someone should shine a light on that.

Ignoring a problem that isn't yours isn't wide when someday that problem might be yours.

Devon Carter said...

Kismet strikes again. I sent New America the message reproduced below in response to their announcement of the upcoming event, and then I stumbled across Barry Eisler's blog post here. Eisler wields his Hanzo with such deadly precision I needn't have bothered. But here's my spew anyway:


I'm a hybrid author, both traditional- and self-published. I just had to drop you a note and point out that the title of your upcoming event is question-begging in its purest form. Amazon is not a monopoly, unless you redefine the term to suit your own purpose. It does not have exclusive control of the book market; there are other book retailers. Amazon is the largest and most successful book seller in the world, true, but that doesn't make it a monopoly.

It should be noted that nary a peep was heard from you folks in protest of the New York publishing house cartel, which colluded to fix book prices and gyp authors with draconian publishing contracts. They reigned supreme for many, many decades -- until Amazon entered the picture and upset their applecart.

As for your notion that Amazon is somehow a "threat to freedom of expression," that's ridiculous on its face. Just the opposite: Amazon has provided a platform for authors to self-publish and sell their books in the largest bookstore in the world. That, folks, is unprecedented freedom of expression.

I view your organization's efforts as a desperate attempt to reestablish Big Publishing's stranglehold on the publishing industry. It's an exercise in futility.

Devon Carter

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