I’m going to keep this brief, mostly because I’m supposed to be writing, but partly because there are too many nuances to really delve into in a single blog post.
The recent and current fight between Hachette (a publisher) and Amazon has shown me, once and for all, that Amazon is simply growing too powerful to ignore. I’ve read (and replied to) many people on-line who seem to feel that Hachette, as one of the publishers that settled with the DOJ in the price-fixing scandal, is merely getting what they deserve. Maybe that’s true. But here’s the rub: Hachette is a corporation full of people. They publish hundreds of authors, who are also people. Those people aren’t guilty of anything, and Amazon’s extortionist tactics are hurting them. Removal of pre-order links and delayed shipping takes money directly from the pockets of real people, and that’s not okay.
Amazon has great customer service. I’m a Prime member. In 2013, I spent over $2000 at Amazon alone. Half of that was on books. They’re cheaper, they deliver quickly, and if I ever have a problem, they solve it without argument. But no one corporation should wield near-monopolistic power over a single market. If (when) Hachette capitulates to Amazon’s demands, Amazon will see that as proof that they can squeeze the other publishers too. They’re following the same path Barnes & Noble took in the 90s—engaging in price wars with indie bookstores and consolidating their power over the market—and that Wal Mart took.
Maybe the fact that I’m a writer and that I make my money from publishing means I have a conflict of interest. But I can’t, in good conscience, continue to give money to a company that uses its power in an industry to extort its vendors. I haven’t shopped in a Wal Mart in years, and now I won’t be shopping at Amazon either.
Mostly I buy books from them, but from now on I’ll be spending that money at Barnes & Noble or a local indie store (the nearest is 40 miles away). For my other needs, I’ll just have to find a local store that sells what I’m looking for. I buy a lot of my art supplies from Amazon, but there’s an A.C. Moore five minutes from my house, so I’ll shop there. Those options aren’t as convenient, and I’ll probably spend more money, but the benefit outweighs the cost.
I don’t want Amazon to disappear, but when I look at companies like Comcast and AT&T, and see how they wield their monopolistic power, it’s difficult to argue that any company should ever be allowed that much influence over a market.
I’m only one person, and I’m sure Amazon won’t miss my $2000, but if enough people do it, maybe it’ll make a difference.
Anyway, I bought 2 Nook ebooks from B&N, and went to my local store and bought IQ84, The Technologists, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and The Martian. That’s $80 Amazon didn’t get. It’s not much, but it’s a start.