Monday, February 1, 2010

Boycott Amazon

Okay.  I've been an Amazon customer before like most of you.  There are times the used book prices just look TOO good and the purchase is just a little too effortless.  But really, why should an ebook cost less than a real book?  (Don't bother me with the paper argument and the labor argument and all the rest; I get it.)  The thing is that the book didn't cost the writer any less blood to produce.  It didn't save the agent any time.  It didn't remove the role of the editor both in selecting it or in making it better.  Doesn't Amazon already get these services essentially for free?

Amazon has aleady largely run most of the best independent booksellers out of business.  Now they want to dictate to publishers what they must charge to place their books on the precious Kindle.  I'm sure some of you love your Kindles and certainly there must be a place for digital books in the marketplace, but hasn't Amazon become just a little too identical to Walmart?  Yes, even those who have a bit more money like to save money, but haven't we learned the lesson of what is incurred when we always try and reduce commodities to the lowest common denominator?  Mediocrity.  (Doubt the role of mediocrity? Turn on the TV for a moment to any reality series or any network show; sample most of what lingers on the bestseller lists, try cutting a steak with some Soviet era East Bloc untensils...) If ever there was a demographic that can afford to pay real market value for a commodity, surely it is Kindle owners.  The day Amazon wants to get the classics into every school kid's hands for, say $1.99, or if they decide to distruibute free, current textbooks to every high school science class, then maybe I'll cut them a break.  Until then, if they continue to insist on telling publishers what they will publish and what they will charge, I say boycott.  I'm not a Luddite, but books still read like books and there remain quality, sophisticated writers producing work if you are willing to look hard enough to find it (which, by the way, is a tougher search if limited to titles currently available on the Kindle).  The digital age can be transformative, but let's make sure it is change for the better rather than change for the mediocre.

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