Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Amazon's Dirty Little War Could Hurt Local Writers

Possible victim: Roland Lazenby: Author of 'Michael Jordan: The Life'
This NYTimes story on the Amazon-Hatchett Publishing dustup gives us all an inside look at what is developing in the publishing industry as it happens. It's an ugly little war, as most of this type are: power against power; greed against greed and I'm not sure at all that there's a good against evil element to this.

The publishing industry has been its own worst enemy in recent years, much as music was before musicians began fighting back and taking control of their work. The book industry is top-heavy with profit and at the bottom is the writer who hopes for the crumbs. I don't know that it will be much different, regardless of who ultimately wins here, but I do know that two of our local writers with very big books coming out as we speak are getting belted.

Roland Lazenby's Michael Jordan: The Life was expected to be a monster book and I believe it still will. It went through three printings in its first 10 days of release and I'm looking for it to climb up the bestseller lists. But it will have to do so without, which won't sell it. Same with Beth Macy's Factory Man. Beth's book, I would guess, could be one of the top 10 business books of the year, given the right circumstances, but not being sold by will hurt. Both books are from Little, Brown (and Jugg, as I prefer), which is a Hatchett imprint.

Barnes & Noble--among others--has responded to this scrapping by loading up on Little, Brown books and selling them at a 30 percent discount. Go buy Roland's and Beth's books there and tell the Dot Coms to stick their war up their ass, for the time being. But buy the books, first because they're both excellent, and second to tell these people you won't be bullied.

Ultimately, paper books will be a tiny part of a large industry. Book stores are sinking as fast as newspapers and e-copies are selling briskly--perhaps to the benefit of the industry and authors as a whole in the long run. This is a period of adjustment, dirty pool, scoundrels (think Jeff Bezos), crooks, thieves and struggling writers (who are always struggling because we so love what we do that we don't often worry about the money).

It will work out, but I fear some people I care about will be hurt in the process.

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