Monday, March 11, 2019

The Amazon Conundrum

It is fashionable for writers to bash Amazon as the destroyer of all things good and noble, especially independent bookstores. The title of David Nemeth’s January 17 post in Do Some Damage implies the level of Amazon’s depravity and our own complicity: The Evil We All Do.

The post is primarily about the culture at Amazon, and I am not going to defend much of it. They treat their workers like shit—though they pay a lot better than Walmart and others—and the management attitude seems to be survival of the fittest. As a writer, the part of the post that sticks in my mind is this:

Most of us look the other way when it comes to Amazon. I know I do. Hell, over at Unlawful Acts, I have purchase links to Amazon. I'm a Prime subscriber and I even subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. And that's something I need to address, something I think we all need to address.

This is the standard “Amazon is evil and we all need to shun them or we are ourselves evil” comment. This school of thought argues—not without justification—that Amazon makes life difficult, if not impossible, for local independent booksellers to thrive. I don’t have the data and that’s okay as it’s not the point I’m going to argue today.

I am the quintessential indie writer. All my books not yet published by Down & Out are self-published through CreateSpace and Kindle. Therein lies my problem. The two closest things I have to a local independent bookseller are 45 minutes away (in no traffic) and won’t carry my books because
a)    My self-pubs are with CreateSpace
b)    Down & Out does not accept returns, as do few, if any, small publishers.

I hold neither of these policies against the booksellers. I understand their business model includes tight margins. They’re just trying to stay in business.

So am I.

If indie booksellers won’t carry my books, where else am I supposed to go? Is the test of my purity to either give away all my writing for free on the website or quit altogether? I work a day job forty-plus hours a week so the option of going full Joe Konrath and becoming my own sales channel is not an option even if I had the personality for it.

This is not to say I’m on anyone’s “side” here. If a local bookseller is willing to do something that would be of mutual interest, I’d be all over it. What I’m not going to do is to bite the hand of the only bookseller that’s ever fed me. If we are to boycott all companies with business practices we object to we’d better prepare for lives as subsistence farmers while we’re at it.

1 comment:

Elgin Bleecker said...

Dana – Good points in this post. As an indie, self-published writer, I am glad Amazon’s KDP is there. That doesn’t mean I ignore the news.