This week, it’s all Amazon, more or less (more for some, less for others).
*The publishing circles I follow are still kicking around the news, reported by my old Book World colleague David Streitfeld earlier this month, of the battle between Amazon and the publishing company Hachette:
Among Amazon’s tactics against Hachette, some of which it has been employing for months, are charging more for its books and suggesting that readers might enjoy instead a book from another author. If customers for some reason persist and buy a Hachette book anyway, Amazon is saying it will take weeks to deliver it.
*Today Publishers Lunch reported that Amazon has stepped up the pressure, removing pre-order buttons on many forthcoming Hachette titles, including J.K. Rowling’s next Robert Galbraith novel:
The affected books now display as “currently unavailable” and offer to have customers “sign up to be notified when this item becomes available” — as those same titles are readily available for pre-order at other online booksellers. Additionally, some affected books do not have any Kindle page at all.
*On his website, James Patterson, one of the authors caught up in the situation, posted some choice words (“four of the most important paragraphs I’ll ever write”) about the implications for the future of publishing:
Right now, bookstores, libraries, authors, and books themselves are caught in the cross fire of an economic war. If this is the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed—by law, if necessary—immediately, if not sooner.
*At Salon, Laura Miller explains why she no longer buys books in any format from Amazon:
There are still a few items I buy from Amazon because they’re not easily available elsewhere, but I stopped buying any books, print or digital, from the company. What I knew of the predatory, proto-monopolistic practices of Amazon caused concern. I believe no single corporation should have as much control over the book market as Amazon clearly aims to seize. Books aren’t generic, interchangeable products like toothpaste or flatscreen TVs, and in the long run readers, authors and publishers all benefit most from a genuinely diverse marketplace.
*Meanwhile, it what might seem like a less controversial move, Amazon released its 4th annual “Most Well-Read Cities in America” list. The company comes up with the list “by compiling sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format from April 2013 to April 2014, on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents.”
*The number-one city on that list? Alexandria, Va., right across the Potomac from where I sit typing this. Over at the LibraryCity blog, though, David Rothman discusses “The Sad Reasons Why Amazon’s #1 Reading City Doesn’t Belong on the List.” The city’s wealthy residents may be buying bestsellers from Amazon at a brisk clip, but the city isn’t investing enough in its library system to make a different to the residents who need it most, Rothman argues:
…the Alexandria library’s budget for books and other materials is well below the national average despite the needs of the city’s many African-Americans, Hispanics and and low-income people. Around half of Alexandria’s students qualify for free school lunches, and as LibraryCity has noted before, they aren’t exactly hearing their parents read Jane Austen to them.
So, readers, authors, and publishers, is any of this likely to change how (or whether) you do business with Amazon? Let me know.