walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Scott Turow on the subject of Amazon as a publisher


"When I went to law school, I thought that kind of vertical integration, where the book seller also becomes the book publisher, I thought that was supposed to be against the law, but you know, it’s supposed to be an anti-trust violation, but I guess the anti-trust laws have evolved in a way that I haven’t thought of."

That's a _really_ simplistic view of vertical integration. The kind of vertical integration that was successfully attacked in the courts was _NOT_ simple. At all. (And rarely purely vertical, for that matter.)

"There are rumors that Amazon will offer books exclusively through Amazon.com, and given the disparities in capital between Amazon and the book publishers, this is an enormous threat because it’s the best-selling authors that keep the publishers afloat.

If Amazon goes out and makes an offer to Stephen King or John Grisham that they can’t refuse — they won’t completely sink their publishing houses, but they’ll put a hole in the hull. And the other problem with Amazon is that you worry that they will behave as a monopolist. They play the game so that they always win."

First, attacking someone because of a rumor is always a little silly. Second, attacking a corporation because they play "so that they always win" feels naive. But one of the major arguments authors contemplating making a deal with Amazon as a publisher rally is that they wouldn't be sold through Barnes & Noble NOT because Amazon as publisher wouldn't let them but because Barnes & Noble would refuse to carry them. Given the recent graphic novels kerfuffle, this would appear to be a probable outcome.

Recently, a friend pointed me at a blogger who attacked Amazon for creating distribution centers and winding down their relationship with Ingram. I had to point out that Amazon did this _after_ B&N bought Ingram. It does not make sense to remain dependent on a company owned by one of your major competitors.

But I get it. Both the blogger and Turow are feeling more pressure from Amazon than they are from national book retailer chains. Er, chain. Yeah, that. Moving on.

"But I do think we’ll pretty quickly get to the point that, when you read a scholarly work, you’ll be able to jump to every source that it’s citing, and I think that’s great. And I think books and maps and pictures and probably film clips are going to be regularly embedded."

Yes, a man with legal training said that. Two things here. (1) The best you could do would be to jump to an expanded citation which might be a hyperlink to a place where you could purchase access to the scholarly work. Because that shit ain't cheap. And that URL would change at unpredictable intervals so I'm not sure why you'd even bother. (2) Publishers who find it too much trouble to hyperlink the number in the text to the end note are not likely to bother hyperlinking to an external source.

Did he really think that books would have other books embedded inside them? I must have misunderstood that.

Turow speaking in his capacity as President of the Author's Guild regularly says things that, um, are someone's idea of representing the interests of authors. I get that. It's hard to know what the interests of authors are in more stable times. Right now it's probably impossible. Does introducing arbitrary nonsense improve the situation?
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