Warning: you’ll need your tissue box handy when you read this piece for The New Yorker about how Amazon has ruthlessly destroyed every single aspect of the entire book industry. You’re free to ignore the fact that it was written by an author who has no less than eight books are currently available on Amazon, a couple of which are even at the top of Amazon’s rankings; the author certainly chose to ignore that. (In an interesting aside, clicking on the author’s book titles in his bio on the article links directly to their Amazon sales pages.)
There’s no need to go into detail on an article that would actually qualify as a Kindle Single (editor-in-chief David Blum could consider it for publication if his name wasn’t dragged through the mud in the piece), and the primary reason for skipping the details is the author decided he could skip crucial details, too…like the names of all the so-called sources who gave him insider information into Amazon’s evil ways, some of which border on allegations of criminal activity. Of course, the number of times the author had to state that his facts had been denied by one party or another was almost laughable.
The short and skinny of the piece–from what I could gather amidst all of the veiled-truths and unfounded statements, including assertions that Amazon is struggling to even make a profit while posting a net income of $239 million last quarter–is that Amazon is a book killer, hellbent on duping greedy consumers into pressing that Buy It Now button before sitting back and waiting for a drone (one that didn’t have to have fair wages or air conditioning in its warehouse) to deliver their goods.
The reality? By their own admission, sources in the article have stated that Amazon saved the book industry, saved the publishing houses, made reading reach new levels of consumer engagement, gave authors who’d been spit on by the publishing industry a home for their works, and created a whole new climate of reader engagement. According to the article, the company takes advantage of its warehouse employees by paying them a shocking $4US per hour over the current minimum wage; incidentally, Amazon also has a program in place to hire US military veterans upon returning home from war, with a special emphasis on providing jobs for disabled veterans and their spouses.
Yes, Amazon has grown both horizontally and vertically, branching out into unheard of and unrelated industries. And despite the allegation that Jeff Bezos never cared at all about books, choosing to focus on those initially because they were hard to damage in shipping, the man has almost single-handedly revived a culture of reading and writing that was floundering, to say the least.
As for the publishers cited (or not cited, as very few real names were revealed) who are terrified of upsetting Amazon? Grow a back bone and sever ties with the world’s largest retailer if you can do it better on your own. Or, alternately, stop complaining about the company that puts your books in front of more consumers than any other retailer on the planet. Any author who wishes to criticize the company that is arguably selling more of his books than anyone else should remove his titles immediately, at the risk of being a hypocrite. To say that Amazon is destroying the industry while cashing a royalty check takes a certain level or nerve.