Debate concerning Amazon should include readers

courtesy of wikimedia commons  INTERNET GIANT Amazon has caught flak recently for using writers as bargaining chips in persuading publishing companies to give Amazon better deals. To this point, the debate has not included readers as part of the equation.

courtesy of wikimedia commons
INTERNET GIANT Amazon has caught flak recently for using writers as bargaining chips in persuading publishing companies to give Amazon better deals. To this point, the debate has not included readers as part of the equation.

Commentary by
James Gillespie

The virtual supermall which is Amazon has given individuals a convenient, reliable and overall pragmatic way to shop, sell and rent. Its recent release of Amazon Fire, and its features such as Amazon Prime or devices such as the Kindle have proven that Amazon continues to adapt and succeed as well as provide luxuries that don’t require a lavish lifestyle and, in general, prove frugal.

While Amazon is a gift to many individuals (it is certainly my favorite website, especially for books, tea and coffee), its recent tension with writers and publishers gives it an unattractive stigma to even its most faithful users. Publishers have been losing income from the conditions of Amazon’s contracts, leaving the writers at a loss; writers who, having written entire books, want their works to be available to the public and to be enjoyed by readers everywhere.

Amazon has requested — if not forced — contracts that increase its profits from sales at the expense of lowering the publishers’ (and thus the writers’) incomes. For the writers and publishers, today’s market makes Amazon the most efficient place to buy and sell books. Were publishers to take their sales outside of Amazon, their sales would plummet even if the profit per book were increased. Amazon has effectively monopolized the sale of books, forcing publishers to take a lower income lest they accept little to no sales.

It does not take subtle perception to see why authors desire to abstain from dealings with Amazon — their works have intrinsic value to the writer, but they need income for basic needs. If that income is minimal, they cannot continue to sell their books. I do not think that the concerns of the authors are at all selfish or unjustified; they think they deserve x and they should get x. The ubiquity of this view amongst authors supports this claim sufficiently. And while we empathize with authors (which we should, if we purchase their books), we also have our own desires in mind and Amazon has its egocentric needs to fulfill.

Commentary on this debate has been binary: Amazon or writers. Please step back for a second, seriously. This contention is not just between authors and Amazon, it’s threefold: have the readers — the ones who buy the books supplying both authors and Amazon with profits — vanished from the equation? Have the ones who keep the writers able to write and Amazon able to thrive been eliminated by the side-effects of their little war? I think not. So where did we go?
The two parties need to look at this debate holistically. The readers and Amazon faithfuls (myself included) are becoming increasingly truculent. Amazon, an avaricious monopoly, and the writers are moving away from a fair deal and are moving towards their own desires taking precedence over all else (a little ironic, if you think about it).

The crux of this debate ultimately lies with the readers, not the chauvinists who call themselves ‘writers’ or ‘employees’ of Amazon. Imagine how all of this would turn out if we stopped reading. Amazon would be begging for any deal and writers would be begging us to buy their books. I truly hope it isn’t reduced to this — I happen to like reading; I happen to like Amazon. The debate needs to be restructured and a resolution needs to arise on behalf of the readers. This is where the power truly rests.

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