Striking Back at Amazon

Last week the indomitable Betty White appeared on The Tonight Show and told host Jay Leno she doesn’t have a computer and planned to keep it that way.  She received a loud round of applause, surely from an audience filled with 20 and 30-somethings who can’t imagine life without a computer.  But, her comment proved that not everyone feels the same about something. 

Many people, for example, don’t care for the “Amazon Empire,” as Lisa Buchan of Sparkabook describes it.  Like Microsoft has done with computers and Facebook has done with human interactions, Amazon seems to have cornered a large part of the literary market – and won’t let go.  Amazon began its reign by siphoning off business from distributors and now it’s jumped into the publishing realm.  In effect, it’s become the Wal-Mart of publishing: selling its products at such incredibly low rates that other publishers just can’t compete.  Self-publishing started to gained prominence at the turn of the century with the rapid growth of both home computers and the Internet.  It’s now downright respectable.  No one looks at a self-published writer as a loser.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Writers who publish their own work are viewed as adventurous businesspeople; self-made types who thumbed their nose at the almighty publishing power houses.  Book agents and publishers aren’t laughing anymore.  They’re actually sweating out the future; worried that they’ve unwittingly positioned themselves for inevitable obliteration. 

In various groups on Linked In, I’ve encountered several writers who’ve taken the self-publishing route, frustrated (read: angered) with the old way.  And, many of them have turned to Amazon to help them realize their dreams of being a professional, published writer.  I can certainly vouch for the temptation.  It seems Amazon will publish and sell just about anything.  But, how long can it be before Amazon finds itself in the same worrisome spot as traditional book agents and publishers?  Apple and Google are now turning to e-book publishing, obviously hoping to garner some of that lucrative market.  But, it’s equally obvious that the publishing industry has changed altogether.  And, just like computers are no longer the cumbersome machines that people only used at work, publishing is no longer for the privileged few.  Whatever becomes of Amazon in the future, I feel that writers will reap the greatest rewards.

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