Last week "The Atlantic" joined the front of Amazon bashers (theatlantic). The magazine goes even further than the other Amazon critics. Atlantic author Jeremy Greenfield claims that in the fight between Amazon and Hachette " the future of ideas in America" is "at stake" and if Amazon would win this could be bad for the democracy. Holy cow!
Greenfield asserts that If Amazon gets its way the online company could gain control over the US book market (75% of books sales). In this case, "it could start to have too much control over what we read".
I don´t think this is realistic. Greenfield underestimates the competition in e-commerce - and especially on the online book market - by far. Amazon already feels the pressure of giants like Google and Apple who also want a piece form the cake. There are also aggressive upstarts who hope to become the next Amazon. And chain stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Barnes & Noble and others are already trying to take advantage of the struggle between Amazon.
Greenfield writes: "Even if Amazon doesn’t do anything overtly to prevent certain books from being published, they would have so much control over what you’re likely to see or buy, it’s not good for democracy".
Like milk, eggs and butter
This is quite nonsense. And Amazon doesn`t have any interest in "what" we read, they want that we read as much as possible that they can sell as many books as possible. "The New Yorker" complained that the online company sell books like "milk, eggs and butter". But the vendors of "milk, eggs and butter" don´t have ideological and political interests. Amazon wants just to sell any book regardless of the content of the book. And when books are cheaper they find more reader. Therefore Amazon`s low price strategy encourages the spread of ideas which might be good for the democracy.
Greenfield also laments that Amazon wants more money from the publishers for placing books on their website. Bookshops usually earn some fees for displaying books on their shelves and shopping windows. If publishers have to pay more to Amazon they make less profits writes Greenfield. In this case the publishers would less invest into books and "serious nonfiction books won't get published" argues the author. He portrays book publishers as venture capital firms who take risks for investing in new project with an uncertain outcome.
I don´t believe that. Big publishing houses are profit maximizer and they also tread books like "milk, eggs and butter". They focus on bestseller authors - who can cash high advances - and aren`t much interested in the mass of unknown writers. Even J. K. Rowling`s first Harry Potter manuscript got rejected by 8 publishers before the publishing house Bloomsbury accepted and printed the novel, writes Wikipedia (wikipedia). Contrary to the big publishing houses Amazon offers unknown writers the possibility to self-publish their works and get known.
Therefore if Amazon wins the struggle with Hachette and other publishers the outcome will be quite contrary to what "The Atlantic" wants us to believe. The lower the prices for books, the more they will be read and the more ideas will be spread - good for the democracy and the culture.