Thursday, July 03, 2014

Amazon Knows What Is Best For You So Sit Down And Be Quiet

Amazon's new policy
You can usually tell when bad publicity is reaching its mark, and that is when the company on the receiving end of the criticism comes out with a statement that is supposed to fix things so the negatives stop flowing.

Amazon, which is under heavy attack for its Mafia-like squeeze on Hachette Book Group, has tried a counterpunch against a publishing industry that is not falling into line like the rest of the widget makers who sell via Amazon.

There is something about books, and the dissemination of knowledge that they represent, that has the reading public upset. After making itself the vendor of greatest convenience and thus greatest volume, Amazon is making it very difficult to purchase and pre-order Hachette's books. Smells a bit like censorship, but Amazon is only trying to strong-arm Hachette into taking a cut in profit so Amazon can make more money.

So maybe Jeff Bezos started out with an intention to put the customer first. To listen to the customer's needs and then find a way to fill that niche. That was then. He's a high roller now. And the customer isn't dictating to him any more.

He knows what you need. So go sit quietly in the corner with your electronic device and order what he lets you order.

Amazon executive Russ Grandinetti has spelled out the new policy. Rest assured, dear customers, he says. Amazon is taking Hachette down because we know it's best for you, the reader. You want cheap books, don't you? Of course you do. We want you to have cheap books. Don't question us. Stop talking about us in that unpleasant way.

The tactics worked before, to bring Macmillan to heel. It's all about getting the buyer the best price. Don't go considering how much more Amazon stands to make by extracting concessions from publishers. Don't think about the authors who will have to pay in the form of lower royalties and fewer opportunities. It's all about you. It's all about you.....

But readers don't have the same relationship with the provider of their reading material as they do with, say, the factory that makes the garden spade they're looking to buy. The provider of their entertainment and information is an author, a person whose photo appears on the cover of the book. A person whose biography is found in the same place. A person with a website, a person a reader can write to and often get a personal reply.

It is little surprise that author Douglas Preston is getting the attention he is for the letter he wrote, setting out the facts about Amazon's attempt to rein in Hachette. His books are not available for pre-order because he is published by Hachette and Amazon is trying to punish Hachette. But it is Mr. Preston who suffers because Amazon is a behemoth book seller and the biggest book seller isn't letting people buy his book. By clogging up the book selling system, the authors are being harmed.

Mr. Preston is gathering signatures from authors willing to sign on to his letter of protest, asking that Amazon stop holding books hostage and stop blocking book sales. By doing so, Amazon is falling away from its old promise to be entirely consumer-oriented, and Jeff Bezos needs to be reminded of his origins.

And Amazon has responded by letting the world know that it is not going to be consumer-oriented any more. Going forward, it will be just like any other business, entirely profit oriented, and if innocent authors are hurt in the process, it's not personal.

It's only business.

Thank you, Godfather. We'll just take the cannoli. And leave the gun. Hachette Book Group? Oh, you won't see them around no more.

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