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Old 06-01-2012, 02:59 PM   #1
fjtorres
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From The Nation: The Amazon effect

A kindler, gentler anti-Amazon screed masquerading as a history of the company. No quotes from consumers. Notable for its lack of even a shred of sympathy for the traditional publishers and big retailer chains: even amazon-haters are distancing themselves from the colluding publishers.
http://www.thenation.com/article/168125/amazon-effect

Summary: Amazon is eee-vile, Jeff Bezos is a martian (manhunter?), big publishers and retailers had it coming.

Quote:
A slightly built, balding gnome of a man, Bezos often struck others as enigmatic, remote and odd. If not exactly cuddly, he was charismatic in an otherworldly sort of way. A Columbia University economics professor who was an early boss of Bezos’ said of him: “He was not warm…. It was like he could be a Martian for all I knew. A well-meaning, nice Martian.”
Hmm, I wonder if he has an addiction to chocos...

No sympathy for big retailers:
Quote:
In the mid- to late 1990s, when online bookselling was in its infancy, Barnes & Noble and Borders were busy expanding their empires, often opening stores adjacent to long-established community bookstores. The independents were alarmed by these and other aggressive strategies. The chain stores could give customers deeply discounted offerings on a depth of stock made possible by favorable publishers’ terms not extended to independents. Clerks at the chains might not intimately know the tastes and predilections of the surrounding neighborhood, but the price was right: lower was better, lowest was best.

The death toll tells the tale. Two decades ago, there were about 4,000 independent bookstores in the United States; only about 1,900 remain. And now, even the victors are imperiled. The fate of the two largest US chain bookstores—themselves partly responsible for putting smaller stores to the sword—is instructive: Borders declared bankruptcy in 2011 and closed its several hundred stores across the country, its demise benefiting over the short term its rival Barnes & Noble, which is nonetheless desperately trying to figure out ways to pay the mortgage on the considerable real estate occupied by its 1,332 stores across the nation. It is removing thousands of physical books from stores in order to create nifty digital zones to persuade customers to embrace the Nook e-book readers, the company’s alternative to Amazon’s Kindle.
...or traditional publishers:

Quote:
The bookstore wars are over. Independents are battered, Borders is dead, Barnes & Noble weakened but still standing and Amazon triumphant. Yet still there is no peace; a new war rages for the future of publishing. The recent Justice Department lawsuit accusing five of the country’s biggest publishers of illegally colluding with Apple to fix the price of e-books is, arguably, publishing’s Alamo. What angered the government wasn’t the price, but the way the publishers seemed to have secretly arranged to raise it.
Quote:
Jason Epstein got it right two years ago when he wrote, “The resistance today by publishers to the onrushing digital future does not arise from fear of disruptive literacy, but from the understandable fear of their own obsolescence and the complexity of the digital transformation that awaits them, one in which much of their traditional infrastructure and perhaps they too will be redundant.” Traditional publishers, he argued, have only themselves to blame, many (perhaps even most) of their wounds having been self-inflicted. They have been too often complacent, allergic to new ideas, even incompetent. Their dogged and likely doomed defense of traditional pricing strategies has left them vulnerable to Amazon’s predatory pricing practices. Peter Mayer, former CEO of Viking/Penguin and now owner and publisher of the independent Overlook Press, agrees: “Publishers clearly need to newly prove to readers and authors the value that publishers add.” That value, he concedes, is no longer a given.

The inability of most traditional publishers to successfully adapt to technological change may be rooted in the retrograde editorial and marketing culture that has long characterized the publishing industry. As one prominent literary agent told me, “This is a business run by English majors, not business majors.” A surpassing irony: for years many of us worried that the increasing conglomeration of publishers would reduce diversity. (We were wrong.) We also feared bloated overheads would hold editors hostage to an unsustainable commercial imperative. (We were right.) But little did we imagine that the blunderbuss for change would arrive in the form of an avaricious imperium called Amazon. It is something of a surprise to see so many now defending the practices of corporate publishers who, just yesterday, were excoriated as philistines out to coarsen the general culture.
Of note:
Quote:
Amazon’s entry into publishing’s traditional casino is a sideshow. More worrisome, at least over the long term, is the success of Amazon’s Kindle Single program, an effort to encourage writers to make an end run around publishers, not only of books but of magazines as well. That program offers writers a chance to publish original e-book essays of no more than 30,000 words (authors agree to a bargain-basement price of no more than $2.99 in exchange for a 70 percent royalty and no advance). It has attracted Nelson DeMille, Jon Krakauer, William Vollmann, Walter Mosley, Ann Patchett, Amy Tan and the late Christopher Hitchens as well as a slew of lesser-known scribblers, some of whom have enjoyed paydays rivaling or exceeding what they might have gotten were magazines like Vanity Fair or The New Yorker to have commissioned their work. Royalties are direct-deposited monthly, and authors can check their sales anytime—a level of efficiency and transparency almost unknown at traditional publishers and magazines.
Translation: "We're next!!!"

There is a fair amount of useful info in there but the tone!

Quote:
Readers of e-books are especially drawn to escapist and overtly commercial genres (romance, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction), and in these categories e-book sales have bulked up to as large as 60 percent. E-book sales are making inroads even with so-called literary fiction.
Yup! Literary fiction is just another genre.
The barbarians have won, civilization is doomed...
...or maybe, the industry is being dragged into the 21st century: kicking, screaming, pouting...

Still an interesting read.
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Old 06-01-2012, 03:02 PM   #2
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I also mentioned this article here:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=179918

plus a link to a Nation slide show on why you shouldn't do business with Amazon (shorter: they're too big)
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Old 06-01-2012, 03:58 PM   #3
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Whoops!
Sorry!
My bad. I checked when I started but not before sending.
This'll get wiped, I trust.
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
This'll get wiped, I trust.
I hope not, excellent summary of the points. Thanks very much.
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:12 PM   #5
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I hope not, excellent summary of the points. Thanks very much.
Yes, your post was much better than mine was.
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Old 06-01-2012, 06:40 PM   #6
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Thanks, but I try not to stomp on other folk's finds. I've still done it twice in the last week. I need to tighten up my posting discipline.
I was brought up better than that. Honest.
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Old 06-01-2012, 07:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Peter Mayer, former CEO of Viking/Penguin and now owner and publisher of the independent Overlook Press, agrees: “Publishers clearly need to newly prove to readers and authors the value that publishers add.” That value, he concedes, is no longer a given.
And yet Overlook Press' books are priced from $9.99 - $14.99. Generally $12.99
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Old 06-02-2012, 02:21 PM   #8
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I'm not a fan of The Nation and I expected the article to be an anti-capitalist screed, but it turned out to be long on history and relatively short on editorializing, IMO. And Bezos IS a gnome.
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Old 06-02-2012, 03:13 PM   #9
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It's pretty fair until you go to their "10 reasons not to do business with amazon" page which basically boils down to "they're too big" (which is actually their last point)

I do business with Amazon because they're good at giving me what I want at (mostly) a reasonable price, and their customer service can't be beat.

Last edited by BeccaPrice; 06-02-2012 at 03:20 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 06-02-2012, 04:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeccaPrice View Post
It's pretty fair until you go to their "10 reasons not to do business with amazon" page which basically boils down to "they're too big" (which is actually their last point)

I do business with Amazon because they're good at giving me what I want at (mostly) a reasonable price, and their customer service can't be beat.
You're absolutely right about the "10 Reasons", but I consider it a separate piece (of propaganda) which doesn't detract from a fair and informative article.

About that propaganda, nobody's going to listen to them anyway. My relationship with Amazon is the same as yours, and dire predictions about how "someday" Amazon's going to screw me just don't resonate. Millions of other folks feel the same way.
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Old 06-02-2012, 07:25 PM   #11
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We wouldn't be having any of these issues if we had just stuck to scrolls.
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Old 06-02-2012, 08:05 PM   #12
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The slide show was very left-leaning (but then, it's The Nation).So am I, but I still would object to the notion, linked to in the slide show, that the German system of strict price controls is the way to go. No price competition means that the independents can survive against bigger competitors...and readers pay the highest possible prices for their books. I can't say that system appeals to me.
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Old 06-02-2012, 10:07 PM   #13
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Just finished a 15 minute podcast of this. Luckily, I know how to multitask; so it was only half a waste of my time.
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Old 06-03-2012, 12:11 PM   #14
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Please see this earlier discussion, located here:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=179918




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