What am I talking about? Amazon’s foray into mainstream publishing. The excited authors are now ready to go forth and promote. Where do they want to promote? Why at a bookstore, of course. Yes. A physical, brick and mortar bookstore. And this is where Seattle Mystery Bookshop owner JB Dickey levies some very good points with an Amazon author seeking a book signing event at his shop. Go read the exchange. It’s quite enlightening.
Not surprisingly, the authors requesting signings are being turned down because bookstores see Amazon as the enemy. And with good reason. Amazon is the Costco of the book-selling industry, selling one kind of vinegar in 50 gallon drums, while indie bookstores are the specialty shops that sell those unique little escargot forks and truffle olive oil. And now Amazon would like to call upon those same bookstores to sell tons of their books and make all sorts of money.
The stores are saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I feel JB Dickey has a valid point. Amazon has undercut the marketplace by discounting books…just like Costco. As a result, the bookstores are suffering lost sales and are being forced out of business. And now Amazon expects those very bookstores they’ve decimated to play ball and host signings for their authors?
Hmm. Even though I’m an ardent free-market advocate, I’m tempted to suggest Amazon go blow thyself. As a publisher, I can attest how we all have been devastated at the plight that has befallen the bookstore industry. They are our bread and butter, and we hate the thought of a monopoly taking hold that will put them in the position of telling us publishers how the game will be played. We’ve already seen their overreaching power when Amazon removed all of St. Martin’s books from their site during negotiations.
I don’t like Amazon’s heavy hand, and I really don’t like Amazon’s authors expecting a helping hand from the very bookstores whose livelihoods are being threatened. Does that mean I hate Amazon in totality? No. I have a Kindle and love it. We are all on budgets, and I don’t apologize for looking for the best deal. That’s what free market allows. On the flip side, I think Amazon has a pair of brass ones to suggest bookstores shouldn’t be anything but grateful for the crumbs Amazon passes along.
I look at Amazon’s foray into publishing the way I look at an ingrown toenail. If you don’t pay attention to it, it can infect your toe. If you really ignore it, you might lose your entire foot. They have the money and power to ingratiate themselves into the hearts of many authors. But how long can that Costco mindset thrive when you grow so huge? At some point quality will suffer, and that will be in the manner of lousy editing. But hey, if you’re the only game in town, who’s gonna complain?
Scary, no? I’d be really interested in hearing bookstore owners’ thoughts on this issue.