This morning I wrote about a desperate-sounding email Amazon sent to all their Kindle Direct Authors in response to Douglas Preston and other authors who are tired of being abused by the online giant.
I've now heard from a number of people who have defended Amazon, and others who wondered why I don't accept Amazon's belief that lower ebook prices will be a boon for all authors.
Understand this—Amazon was created by humans and, as with any of our creations, can be used for both good and evil. For example, I grew up in an area with a bad library system and very few booksellers, none of which carried an in-depth stock of the books I desperately wanted to read. Because of that I loved going to big cities like Atlanta or New York where I could find independent booksellers who actually carried, you know, a ton of books.
I know my experience mirrors that of many people both in the U.S. and around the world. And for people like us Amazon is a true gift from the literary gods, enabling readers to have at their fingertips a sizable portion of the world's books.
Because this I've been sympathetic to people who both complained that Amazon was driving their local booksellers out of business, and to people who said they loved Amazon. I've seen the world from both perspectives, so to speak.
As an author, my Amazon viewpoint is similarly complex. I appreciate that Amazon has helped my fiction be read by people around the world. However, I wouldn't have found any readers without traditional magazine publishers like Interzone and Asimov's Science Fiction, which took a chance on my short stories. But I also know that Asimov's has seen its circulation grow in recent years thanks in part to the exposure the magazine's electronic edition receives on the Kindle.
Despite all this, the reason I'm opposed to Amazon's current stance toward book publishers is because I don't see any good coming to authors if Amazon becomes the world's defacto publishing monopoly. Yes, Amazon has done a lot of good for authors and often pays authors higher percentages than traditional publishers. But Amazon is in this for Amazon's sake—as are almost all businesses—and I have no doubt that if Amazon is able dictate terms to traditional publishers they'll eventually dictate not-so-great terms to all authors.
There's no going back to how the publishing and bookselling world used to be, nor would I want that to happen. But that doesn't mean I want any one corporation to have ultimate power over which books are published, how they are priced, and how much authors are paid.