Are booksellers the Kosher of retailers, in that they answer to a higher power? What they offer their customers are guided not by what they want to put on their shelves, but by some higher moral ground guided by the Literature God.
That’s the only explanation I can come up after reading author Douglas Preston’s open letter regarding the Amazon Hachette Dispute where he writes, “As writers — most of us not published by Hachette — we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want.”
By that statement one would assume Amazon is making it impossible for readers to get one of Preston’s Hachette published books. But I just checked, and I found his books over at Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I even found his books on Amazon, so I’m not sure which of his books Amazon is keeping customers from ordering.
Basically, publisher Hachette wants to sell its product at Amazon’s store, under Hachette’s terms. I naively was under the impression a retailer in America has the right to decide what product to put on its shelves. When Acme Sofa Company opens it doors and decides its customers will pay up to $300 for a couch, it has the right not to stock the higher end sofas going for $2,000, especially if they believe the $300 sofas are the same quality as the $2,000 sofas, and don’t believe gouging their customers is in their best interest.
What also leaves me shaking my head is when Preston writes, “It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.” Interesting to me he forgets how bookstores routinely boycott authors under Amazon publishing labels. He isn’t outraged how books by independent authors are routinely excluded from bookstores.
Personally, I wish Amazon would let Hachette set its ridiculously high prices. But it’s their store, and their rules, something I understood the day I signed up to publish on Amazon’s platform.
While I don’t always agree with Amazon’s policies, I do appreciate the fact that it has enabled authors like me to make a living doing what we love, especially during these precarious economic times. When someone like Hachette published celebrity Stephen Colbert—whom I have always liked—starts advocating boycotting Amazon, I can’t help but get pissed. Does he not realize how many authors—thousand’s of them, just like me—rely on their income from Amazon to pay their bills. Basic things, like put food on our tables, pay for our utilities.
Sure, my products are on other platforms, but if consumers actually listened to Colbert, my income would drop significantly and it would take a while (if ever) before I could get the level of sales at the other venues. I don’t imagine Colbert’s lifestyle will be impacted from this dispute—but a successful Colbert boycott of Amazon could certainly impact mine and many other independent authors.
This morning when searching online for news on the Amazon Hachette Dispute, I found countless articles urging a boycott of Amazon. If Douglas Preston and the others are so concerned for their fellow authors, I would think they’d ask consumers to continue shopping Amazon during this dispute—unless of course they agree with Colbert’s cry to boycott.
This is the one time the annoying Corporations are people too actually makes sense, in that there are thousands of mom and pop type publishing houses out there who publish on Amazon. Authors who have found their readers, and rely on Amazon’s platform to get their products out there. When you boycott Amazon you are hurting these folks—authors, who unlike the top one percent, can’t afford to weather such an economic loss.