Amazon bashing is nothing new, and it’s certainly a popular topic at events where publishers have an open format to discuss the state of the industry. But what does it say about a company when its current most vocal critic is himself called a string of names in the industry and is at the seat of controversy at every turn?
Literary agent Andrew Wylie of the Andrew Wylie Literary Agency is known as “The Jackal” in the publishing industry, and that’s when the people who are disparaging him are feeling generous. Long accused of “poaching” authors away from other agencies or publishers, Wylie has a decidedly unapologetic stance when it comes to offering his clients–and apparently, the clients of other people–a deal that allows them to continue to write and support themselves well.
But Wylie, who was in Argentina for the Buenos Aires Book Fair last week, brought a decidedly painful message to the country: Beware of Amazon. According to an article for the Buenos Aires Herald, Wylie spoke out at the event and to reporters on Amazon’s predatory behavior, citing specifically the alleged wrongdoing that five of the then-Big Six publishers were accused of. Those accusations led to most of the publishers settling out of court in order to avoid even more costly legal fees, a factor that Wylie says Amazon played a part in by providing documents to the Department of Justice at the time.
This is an interesting turnaround for Wylie, who launched a digital imprint in 2010 with the express purpose of selling titles strictly through Amazon’s Kindle platform. Of course, only last fall Wylie gave an interview to the New Republic that called Kindle users “fools” and warned publishers to take their titles off of Amazon so that fewer fools had the opportunity to read them.
But even if Wylie has a point and takes it upon himself to embark on a global mission to warn new markets of Amazon’s practices, will anyone listen? Or is it too little, too late for people who feel as Wylie does, that Amazon is seeking to destroy publishing in the same way that Wylie stated Apple destroyed the music industry? However the industry chooses to listen or not, no one can say the Jackal sat by and did nothing will Amazon marched forward on its global domination quest.