Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: More Thoughts on Amazon, and Fear, and Desirable States of the Publishing Industry

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Friday, July 11, 2014

More Thoughts on Amazon, and Fear, and Desirable States of the Publishing Industry

I've been continuing to noodle everything that's going on between Amazon and Hachette these days, and last night as I was falling asleep, I had a very interesting thought:

I've spent plenty of time wondering what would happen if Amazon "beat" all the major publishers and attained Crushing Market Power (THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!). But I have spent very little time considering what would happen if the reverse were true. So I thought about that, and, in short, it would be bad.

I talk a lot about how publishers are shooting themselves in the foot by not selling directly to consumers more actively, meaning readers have to turn elsewhere (usually Amazon) for e-books. Well, some of them are changing gears. And if they do it well enough (which I suspect is unlikely), they could conceivably drive readers away from Amazon. This would be a terrible thing for authors, and, I suspect, for readers as well.

Amazon, for all its evils, has vastly expanded the options an author has for building their career. Ditto for selling backlist titles. Amazon has also created markets for very cheap books that did not exist before, which is good for readers. Frankly, if I have $.99 to spend on a book, I'd much rather grab a new, cheap e-book than a paperback copy that's falling apart out of a bargain bin somewhere.

In world without Amazon, or where Amazon sold as few e-books as B&N and Apple do, it would be much harder to start a career as an independent author (which, for the record, is how I think most authors should start their careers). That would be at least as bad as a world without traditional publishing, in which Amazon had no reason not to dictate draconian terms to independent authors.

Which leads me to my newest thought on where the publishing industry is: right where it should be.

If Hachette and Amazon are battling each other tooth and nail over publishing terms, that's a good thing, unless you happen to be a Hachette author. But most authors aren't Hachette authors, and eventually Hachette will make peace with the beast, and those authors' lives will go back to normal. It will then be someone else's turn.

It would be best if Amazon and large publishers made war on each other without putting their business disputes between authors and readers. But in the end, I think, I'm glad that they're warring with each other at all.

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