I tweeted my last post to Laura Miller at Salon.com.
Her reply, “@JulietWaters Good point, but so far they’ve had difficulty w/this because they lack physical stores: http://bit.ly/Yabi7d.”
Follow the shortlink and you’ll find Miller’s March article on Amazon’s problem convincing writers that they might want to give up print books, and bookstores that they might want to carry books published by Amazon.
This problem came to something of a head last March when Amazon published To Good To Be True, by Benjamin Anastas. Bookstores refused to carry the print edition of this memoir by a once successful mid list writer who could no longer support himself and his young son.
But bookstores seem to have been mostly posturing. Three months later you can buy the book at Barnes & Noble. It’s listed as “Out of Stock” at their stores, but there are four copies of it at the Strand in NYC.
Miller is right. Writers want to see their books in print. But writers also want to feed their families. And maybe the first battles in this war are not going to be over bestselling writers. It’s not going to take a ton of investment by Amazon to pick up a few talented, but not as successful as they once were, mid list writers. If bookstores refuse to carry them, is the tide of public opinion really going to stay on the side of bookstores, or the major publishers, and side against writers trying to make a living?
In a better world, this war that would be fought on content. Editors would set the size of advances, not marketing departments, and publishers would then be setting cultural standards that Amazon would have to fight to maintain. Talented writers would sign with the publisher that would help them write a better book.
But that would be world driven by cultural forces, not market forces.
So predictions of Amazon’s failure on this front are still very, very premature.