Originally published at Cogs & Neurons. You can comment here or there.
So, in case you hadn’t heard, Amazon are basically assholes.
I know. I’ll give you a moment, this is a profound shock. That’s ok. Let it sink in slowly.
Another piece of information which may leave you reeling: Amazon is tremendously successful. Now I don’t want to be one of those correlation-causation guys, but I suspect those two things are related. As a consumer, I go to Amazon because I can get stuff cheap. I like cheap stuff. I prefer free stuff, but cheap is often as close as I can get. But the reason those things are cheap, well it’s because Amazon is being an asshole to someone.
The big dude is Amazon. The little bleeding one is everything you love.
So when I buy there, I’m tacitly supporting them being assholes. But when I’m not shopping there, I’m not supporting my bank balance.
Which is, facetiously enough, the basic issue, whether its expanded out to publishing, or wherever. Really, I think it’s the basic issue with capitalism, but I’m a horrible lefty, so, I probably would. But, take, for example, Amazon’s move to create an app to let you scan a book in a bookstore and see how much cheaper you can get it on Amazon. That’s, from a business point of view, unutterable genius. It gets you to buy from them. That’s the point of a company. That’s why it’s there.
It is also, an unbelievably shitty thing to do.
But I do like cheap stuff.
And, to be fair, its exactly what the big bookstores like Barnes & Noble did to all the small bookstores (I know, another shocking revelation, I am full of insight today). I imagine the main thing that annoys them about Amazon’s app is that they didn’t think of it first.
I think one of my biggest issues with Amazon–as a consumer–is that their replication of a bookstore is just downright bad. They couldn’t do less to hide the fact that they are selling little, papery bricks. The joy of entering a real physical bookstore, is browsing. It’s seeing that book next to the one you were initially interested in, and pulling it out, and finding out it’s so much cooler. And then the next one and the next one.
That said, Barnes and Noble’s web site isn’t that much better.
Some people bemoan the death of the social aspect of book stores. Personally that’s not something I’ve ever experience. I stalk the bookshelves alone, mildly and irrationally suspicious of all sales people. But I do love physically being in them, being surrounded by books. I’ve gone to readings, hell, I’ve done a reading, it’s awesome. I would be very, very sad if physical book stores went away.
But, man, I do like cheap stuff.
Now, some people tout the coming e-revolution, and I’m sure that’s part of the demise of the physical book store. But, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I think it’s overhyped. To quote the facts on No Hero again, despite being a quarter of the price of the physical book, e-book sales only make up around a quarter of my sales. So, despite liking cheap, I still think people like their physical books.
But they do like them cheap.
And, to repeat my point from way up above, I think that’s basically the issue as a consumer: what do you like more? Non-shitty behavior or money. And for the most part I think people like money. It’s an economy of scale issue, and being the dedicated capitalists that they are, I can’t see Amazon letting up the pressure on Barnes and Noble’s throat any time soon.
The other issue I have is as a producer of work. Recently I’ve seen a bunch of people refusing to sell stuff through Amazon. This is, imho, incredibly admirable. But it’s also going to seriously limit the sales of those books. Amazon is the biggest game in town. And in the land of book selling, being seen despite the clutter seems to be one of the most vital weapons in an author armament. Hell, it’s why this blog is looking more lively. It’s why I’m trying to up my twitter game. Not stocking Yesterday’s Hero on Amazon would be tantamount to career suicide at this point.
Again, money vs morals.
This has turned into a bit of a downer post. I would love for Amazon to become a lovely happy shiny company, full of smiles and rainbows, but it’s not going to happen. And if it did, then I doubt it would be half as successful. I’m all for someone overthrowing the capitalist system, but that requires there to be a better one available, and I’m not seeing it yet. I wish I had an answer, a better way to propose. But I honestly think Amazon is the monster we’ve created, and now we’re going to have to work out a way to live with it. It’s a sad truth, but I don’t think wishing it away is going to have much effect.
In the mean time, buy from your local bookstores when you can, producers, pimp the crap out of Indiebound links, and let’s all work out a way how to jab a syringe full of unicorn farts and puppy breath into Amazon’s arse.