I was recently invited by the folks at Atticus Books to participate in a panel discussion about Amazon’s influence on reading culture for their “Six Degrees Left” blog feature. I’m a fan of the Atticus catalog, for the most part (Hey Dan, Where the women at?), but it’s no secret that the editor-in-chief is sentimental for brick and mortar, in addition to being a bit squirmy about progressive promotion, especially of e-books.
OK, Laura, you baited me – and here I am – hook, line & sinker.
What I find most curious about this whole “Amazon is evil; Amazon is good” debate is why authors feel the need to defend cutthroat business practices. Yes, Amazon is innovative, but their innovation comes at a dear price to our culture if it translates to squeezing dry the diminishing fruits of any small entrepreneur’s labor.
Even if you don’t think Wal-Mart is inherently bad for your local community, have you noticed the sparse selection of high-quality literature on their shelves? On the whole, they sell Snooki-spun schlock. Is that the kind of book/literary legacy we want to leave our children?
Yes, GoogleBooks and the Kindle protect literature by providing access to countless titles. But how will future readers know where to look for the pearls when they have rubbish being pushed at them from all directions?
Oh, and I’m working on signing a female writer. Really, I am! Just ask Libby.
Dan, you brought the Evil vs. Good element into this. Any fiction writer will tell you Evil and Good aren’t very useful. And I’m not defending amazon–I’m just not romanticizing boutique culture and taste-makers, especially when there are so many readers isolated by economy and locality.
So enough whining. Let’s assume Amazon is still with us in the morning. As a publisher, how are you planning to sell your books? Same old, same old?
The “same old, same old” clearly doesn’t work in a book industry that’s not only fragmented, but shattered, mainly due to a broken distribution/return model (that predates Amazon).
From the onset, I’ve intended to make Atticus a green-leaning internet company that publishes and disseminates slightly offbeat literature – online and in print. I’m really interested in exploring enhanced e-books and how that may change the reading experience. One concern I have, however, with online reading is the eventual failure for us to concentrate long enough to absorb all we can from the text. I’m not averse to the idea of evolutionary reading practices and the whole mixed-media digital platform. This is wildly exciting times to be in publishing–I’m just concerned with staying in business long enough to be able to capitalize on the technology that is driving/changing consumer behavior.
This receptivity to different delivery methods is a radical departure from the traditional literary press mode, so I’m clearly in favor of chopping down the status quo (without altogether losing the romance of books and yes, printed matter). I’m mainly agains the fact that those who are holding all the cards are also rigging the table so that only those with the most chips could play.
I’m not looking for sympathy from authors, only an understanding that what may appear to be your best bud (Amazon) may actually be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. When you cut out all the champion middle men–the author’s greatest advocates (editors, publishers, publicists, reviewers, and booksellers) and leave the fate of procurement to one entity alone, there’s little human element involved in the whole publishing process. Unless you’re on the bestsellers list, you’re just a cog in the Amazon machine.
You could start with something by myself, if you are looking for a womanish woman who also really loves men while simultaneously being ambivalent about the whole process.
I agree, in essence, problems are not going to be solved by the Amazons of the world. But writers are looking for a way out of the trap.
Instead of “good or evil,” I really should have positioned the Amazon conundrum as a “friend or foe” dilemma. Either their presence is healthy for the literary ecosystem or it is not. Of course the true answer lies somewhere in the middle, but it’s hard for me to see how their predatory practices are benefiting small presses, indie booksellers, or communities of readers for that matter.
Feel free to send Atticus a novel-length ms query. We’re up to our ears in submissions, particularly story collections, but book proposals from members of the female persuasion now leapfrog to the top quadrant.
omg, Dan, you’ve transformed into a concern troll, fully loaded with a bucket of either/or fallacies (read that in Jane Curtain voice). Also, check your use of “female,” please. (1st time is an accident, 2nd time just isn’t, unless you’re morey fucking amsterdam)
deborah, very best of luck on getting published–Atticus Press is brilliant, and I’ve met Dan in person several times, and I assure you he’s a sweetheart. And by the quality of the books he’s put out, possibly a visionary. BUT-no matter who you go with, make sure they answer the question: just how do they plan to sell your book?