Thursday, July 3, 2014

An Insidious Back Story

imageThe press has been all about the Amazon-Hachette dispute. Authors, such as John Grisham, have even signed an open letter, requesting “loyal readers” to email Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, telling him what they really “think” about the “boycotting” of Hatchette authors. The Guardian quoted Publisher’s Lunch reporting “the number of authors signing up to the letter is ‘growing quickly,’ and Publisher’s Lunch’s own coverage of the letter runs a headline that reads, “Open Letter […] Has ‘Gone Viral,’ and whatever that means (I only count 18 authors having signed thus far).

The dispute, for me, is a non-issue, but what’s troubling is the insidious back story that no one’s talking about. The one we should be frightened of: traditional publishers trying to turn public libraries into the next, new, all-improved Amazon. Michael Kozlowski covered this for Good E Reader on June 28th. It’s a short article, well worth the read. Simon and Schuster now require libraries to offer a Buy It Now button when lending an eBook to a patron. Penguin offers an opt-in program, and had tested the program through the New York public library.

Traditional publishing is scared. Amazon seems to be running away with profits because trade publishers are unable to accept the new paradigm shift in business—similar to what happened in the music industry. I don’t understand why publishers simply don’t create their own Amazon-like online-retail outlet as opposed to corrupting a public institute.

Something needs done about this. I’m not sure what yet, and I am open to suggestions. But this needs stopped. Our community institutions should not—cannot—be turned into commercial enterprises.