You may have heard of the current dispute between Hachette Book Group and Amazon. I won’t go into the details, which are complicated, but what’s been happening is that Amazon has been playing “hardball,” as they call it. They have unilaterally decided to delay shipment of all Hachette titles, from two to four weeks.
Just how much of the total book market Amazon controls varies depending on who you believe, but thirty percent seems to be a good guess. I submit to you that this is too much, and it is increasing. If they are not quite a book monopoly now, they soon could be.
Amazon seemed great when they started out. But they soon turned into the Wal-Mart of the Internet, selling everything under the sun, and … oh, yeah, some books. Now they seem to regard books as just another variety of vacuum cleaner, or camera, or shower curtain, or toaster oven.
Hachette is not my publisher. That honor goes to Penguin House, but I feel, along with many other authors from all the publishing houses, that it doesn’t matter. If they can do this to Hachette today, they can do it to Simon and Schuster tomorrow. To give you an idea of just how little Amazon cares about what authors think, some of the writers who are published by Hachette are Scott Turow, David Baldacci, James Patterson, and no less than J.K. Rowling herself. All of their books have been delayed. And all of them have come out, along with the likes of Stephen King and many others from other houses, against this tactic.
The story is not simple, I admit. For one thing, the so-called Big Six publishers have screwed writers almost from the days of Gutenberg, so it doesn’t feel entirely comfortable for me to take their side. However, I abhor a bully, and this action is about a brazen attempt at bullying as I’ve ever seen.
Here’s what I’d like to suggest to you faithful readers. My new novel, Dark Lightning, just came out. If you are planning to buy it in paper (and I hope you are), I ask you to consider buying it elsewhere. Powell’s online would be good. Your local independent bookstore would be even better.
Yes, I know it will probably cost a few dollars more. And I don’t want to pretend to a holier-than-thou attitude. I have shopped at Amazon many times in the past, and probably for the same reasons you do: It’s cheaper. But until this matter is settled, I will buy no more books from them. If you agree with me, please boycott them.
August 9, 2014