I’m a liberal Democrat. I’m Pro-Choice and I vote. I don’t drive because burning fossil fuels has wrecked the environment. I don’t shop at WalMart.
I do, however, shop at Amazon.
The Amazon feud with Hachette about e-book pricing, which, by the way, has gone on absurdly long, is not a matter of priority to me politically. If Hachette chooses not to take care of its authors–Amazon did, after all, propose that Hachette writers should earn 100% of the e-book profits until the superstore and the publisher have reached a deal–how will my failure to buy other publishers’ books, classics, and used books support the publishing industry?
The Kindle does not concern me. I have a Nook. I already pay higher prices for e-books than Kindle users do. This is not my battle.
Pray, where would I buy books if not at Amazon? I live in an insurance town. The number of bookstores is minuscule. We have Barnes and Noble and two tiny independent bookstores. If not for Amazon, how would I find the books of Mrs. Humphry Ward, Pamela Frankau, and Margaret Wilson? I very much prefer books to e-books. Particularly in recent months, I have tired of reading on a screen. Are others, too, going back to the physical book? One can hope.
Everyone in my family is liberal, and yet we all shop at Amazon.
Some groups of writers have organized against Amazon’s decision to make Hachette books harder to buy, i.e., by not allowing pre-orders and claiming that the books will take one-to-three weeks to deliver. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Authors Guild, which has about 8,500 members, met with Justice Department officials in August to request an investigation of whether Amazon is violating antitrust law in its tactics with Hachette Book Groups. Another group, Authors United, with more than 1,000 members, has written a letter to the Justice Department about the same antitrust issue.
This actually does not seem to me a huge number of writers. The New York Times stresses the presence in Authors United of white male stars like Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie. Can ordinary writers afford to make a big issue of this? I very much doubt it.
So I was relieved when two highly-respected writers, Paulo Coelho and Germaine Greer, recently spoke in favor of lower e-book prices.
Publishers Weekly reported last week that Paulo Coelho told an audience at the Frankfurt Book Fair that change could not be stopped.
“It is a lost case,” Coelho said.
“Paulo, you’re saying the war is lost?” Juergen Boos [the fair director) asked.
“I’m not saying the war is lost,” Coelho replied “I’m saying we humans are still here because of our capacity of adapting ourselves. The war is not lost. It is the opposite. The war is won. Culture is now available all over the world. People can read.”
On Aug. 28 on BBC Radio 4’s “The Report,” Germaine Greer said,
“Amazon wants to sell e-books at less, so they should,” she said. “They should cost less because they don’t have to be put together, stitched, printed, designed, blah, blah, blah. If you skip all that and all you have got is a ribbon of text on a Kindle then it should cost you pennies frankly.”
Of course one of my heroes, Ursula K. Le Guin, emailed the New York Times to say that Amazon’s treatment of Hachette authors was censorship.
“We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author,” Ms. Le Guin wrote (The New York Tin an email. “Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.”
One cannot sanction censorship.
I just can’t make everything my cause. If I didn’t buy so many books, it would be easier. I am not going to special-order everything I want from an independent bookstore and pay twice the price when I can order it myself.
Sometimes you have to do what’s good for yourself.