10 comments on “The Nile is Better: Why I Don’t Like Amazon, Part 2

  1. I agree with most of what you say about Amazon but just a couple of comments –

    I’ve lived here for nearly twenty years and the only book outlets are the supermarket and a branch of WHSmith which only sells bestsellers and where the staff know nothing – often not even what books they have. So Amazon fulfils a real need here, even if I wish it didn’t.

    Also, when self-publishing started I jumped in (as a reader), but honestly the general standard is so dire that finding the very occasional gem is almost impossible. I’ve pretty much gone back to relying on publishing houses to sort the wheat from the chaff. At least in general writers who get signed up understand the basics of grammar (or have editors who do), unlike a huge proportion of self-pubs.

    • That’s too bad that your book outlet choices are so limited. I’ve had the experience a couple times to walk into a store where it was very quickly apparent that I knew more about the books then the people working there, and it’s just no fun. The best part is having an employee tell/show you something you wouldn’t otherwise have found. In my other comments with A.M.B. I mentioned that, if Amazon were playing by the same rules as everyone else, they would have carved out a decent market share but their startling growth would be checked by the need to actually make profits. Your situation perfectly describes the market share that they should have. Not everyplace in the world has good stores to buy books, even before Amazon started killing off the independents, so the need for a convenient, fast, effective online book service definitely fills the need that you mentioned.

      You’re absolutely right about self-publishing, too. It has exploded more than grown and now it’s difficult to find any good stuff in the seething ocean of bad grammar and bad writing. That’s why I think it’s a compliment to publishing houses. It allows authors to try other avenues and get their book out, but I can’t foresee a time when it replaces traditional publishing. I’ve interned at a publishing house, and it became very clear why they call the stack of unsolicited manuscripts the “slush” pile. But, sometimes in the slush pile, just like in self-publishing, there was something worth passing on. And for that reason I liked those piles. As long as something comes out of it, even if it is increasingly difficult to find, I think it’s worth the trouble. That said, I also don’t like spending my free time going through self-pubbed lists. It takes a lot of energy that I could be otherwise devoting to my TBR pile, and I’m already excited about the books in my TBR. So that almost always wins out.

  2. I agree with you- monopolies are dangerous. We need strong antitrust laws, consumer protection laws, and class actions (which our Supreme Court disfavors), and hopefully, we’ll have a market that includes the Amazon, Nile, Ganges, Euphrates, Colorado, etc.

    Thanks for the post and the discussion!

    • Me?!? Thank you!! I really appreciate your comments and willingness to discuss. And thank you for your comments on my birthday post, too. I haven’t responded to any of them yet just to give myself some emotional distance, but it means a lot to me that you’ve read them and you’re not afraid to share your opinion. It’s been my favorite part of this blog so far. So, again, Thank You.

      • You’re welcome! I appreciate thoughtful posts, and I enjoy participating in discussions. I agree that it’s the best part of blogging. Would it surprise you to know that I was voted “most opinionated” by my high school class (eons ago)?

      • You don’t say? Most opinionated? Never woulda guessed. Though really I think that’s a way to say “most willing to stand up for your beliefs.” Most people have opinions, they’re just too shy to share them publicly (part of the reason I started the blog, get over fear of judgement).

  3. I understand what you’re saying, but the same can be said of the publishers (that they are “helping a small contingency of authors and hurting everyone else”). What Amazon offers writers is an opportunity to reach readers, and whether or not they will succeed is dependent on other factors (lucky, mostly). The same is true of publishers, except that they offer far fewer writers that opportunity and the mid-list ones aren’t going to reach many readers. There is a danger in Amazon growing too big–monopolies are always dangerous–but the solution isn’t to support the status quo of the Big Six. I believe there is a role for traditional publishers to play in this changing landscape, but they can’t just stay as they are.

    • I’m not sure that I totally agree with that assessment. Definitely the big publishers are “helping a small contingency of authors,” but to my eyes it isn’t clear how they are “hurting everyone else.” Unless you are to say that they are hurting other writers by not publishing them? And, even if that is the argument, I think that is a far cry from Amazon’s determination to control distribution, narrowing avenues for author involvement and outreach. But, there’s a chance that my fourth paragraph wasn’t clear enough, so let me rephrase. I have no problem with self publishing and no problem with Amazon’s self publishing platform. I think it’s great. Bring more authors to more readers. Wonderful. My problem is that Amazon is sooooo much more than a self publishing service. They are also a monopoly-seeking online behemoth that have made their intentions to run bookstores out of business very clear. So, the perception that Amazon, as a whole, is good for authors is extremely worrisome to me. Amazon’s self publishing ability is good for authors. But pretty much everything else Amazon does is frighteningly bad for authors.

      • In the past, publishers hurt writers and readers by preventing books from getting into readers hands (by controlling what gets disseminated). Some of those books might not be good, but others are, and whether a book gets read shouldn’t be determined by six companies (whose terms are often very bad for most new writers; that’s probably the only part of Scott Turow’s recent rant that made any sense). I don’t trust Amazon more than I trust publishing companies. I think they all have a role to play in a vibrant market.

      • Goodness, wasn’t Turow’s article terrible? I just felt bad for the guy. You’re right that whether a book gets read shouldn’t be determined by six companies (five once the Random House Penguin merger goes through…although then I can call them Random Penguin House and that name seems almost worth it), which is why I like self-publishing. But, five companies is still better than one company. And that’s why I will always trust publishers (until they all merge into one terrible monster) more than Amazon, because there is still a lot of competition there. I mean, it took a merger of two giant companies, Random Penguin House, just to grab a 25% market share in publishing, which is a lot, but still isn’t up to Amazon’s 30% share of all book distribution and 67% share of distribution in the area of most growth, e-books. Not to mention that Amazon’s tentacles reach into so many other areas, including a 10% SHARE OF ALL ONLINE PURCHASES. I don’t capitalize to imply that I’m screaming at you, just to show that I just looked that last piece of information up right now and find it totally terrifying. Then add on some questionable ethics and an insatiable appetite for growth. It’s like Blue Whales suddenly developed the ability to live on land and became carnivores with a special hankering for human flesh. Absolutely, I’d be scared.

        In reality, though, I would likely have no problem with Amazon if they were held to the same standards as everyone else. If Amazon’s shareholders demanded they make a profit (like all of the big six/five publishers and pretty much every other public company ever), then they would have carved out a good chunk of the book market with their fast service and good e-readers and self-publishing equipment, but they’d have to sell books at prices that are at least somewhere in the range of being the slightest bit profitable. The fact that their shareholders are perfectly fine with Amazon posting a loss as long as it means that they have gobbled up larger and larger portions of the market, well, really, I think that should scare everyone a little bit. If it’s hard to trust five companies to control most of publishing, why would we trust one company to control most of book distribution?

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