Amazon Is Destroying My Favorite Things!

I love everything about books. I love reading them. I love writing them. I love the look and smell and sound and feel of books. I might even love the taste, let me check…yeah, I love the taste of books, too.

I also love the culture of books. I love places filled with books. I love talking about books. I love the power of books. And I really love people who love books, which is why I love booksellers.

Booksellers are curious and intelligent and interesting people and they’re always finding new things to be excited about, thanks in part to all the books in their lives. They love matching the right book with the right reader. They bring authors and artists into our neighborhoods. They do story times for children.  They provide a setting to learn and grow and interact with our communities. There would be no book culture without booksellers.

(Nor would there be book culture without libraries, librarians, publishers, and readers. They are all required. But back to booksellers…)

So I’ve been confused by the bizarre negotiations between Amazon (a different kind of bookseller, but a bookseller nonetheless) and my publisher, Hachette. Things have gotten messy, and as a pressure tactic Amazon has made it difficult or impossible to buy Hachette’s books, including my books.

It actually makes me sad that Amazon, a bookseller, would be willing to hold my books hostage. I thought Amazon loved books? I thought it loved MY books? How could it hold books hostage if it loves them?

The answer, of course, is that Amazon does not love books. To Amazon, books are just a Loss Leader. Amazon loses money on books, but uses them to lure customers toward more profitable things. “Check out our mysteriously cheap books,” whispers Amazon. “And since you’re here, why not reorder some regularly priced batteries and soap?”

To sell things like batteries and soap Amazon has driven down the price of books, which is convincing people that books aren’t worth much. But that’s not true. Books change lives, and they’re beautiful objects, and they have a special place in our history and culture. Books are worth a lot.

Bookstores that can’t compete with Amazon’s artificially low prices die off. When bookstores disappear, so do booksellers and book culture.

Now Amazon is taking aim at publishers. Now Amazon is holding my books hostage.

Amazon is destroying my favorite things!

Honestly, the book industry probably needed a kick in the pants. Amazon has forced publishers and booksellers to improve efficiency, and that’s a good thing. But now Amazon is threatening the entire culture of books so it can sell more batteries and soap.

What do you think will happen if Amazon succeeds and destroys its competition? Do you think it will continue slashing prices when it’s the only bookseller left? Do you think it will continue giving us great bargains out of the kindness of its heart? Am I the only one who wants to live in a world with bookstores and book culture and a healthy publishing industry?

I love bargains as much as the next guy, but I have limits. I could not support a company that used, say, slave labor, no matter how great their bargains. (And Amazon’s working conditions aren’t much better than slave labor). Likewise, I cannot support a company that is destroying so many of my favorite things.

The truth is, our addiction to Amazon is what has empowered it to destabilize the book world. I can’t blame anyone who wants to buy inexpensive books, and when cost and convenience are of paramount importance to you, then click away…or better yet, check out free books from your local library. But before you get your next Amazon fix, take a moment to think about what else is important to you. If you care about books, if you care about culture, if you want to live in a world with bookstores, then I encourage you to wean yourself from Amazon. There are other ways to buy books online.

And to those who say this is all just part of our inevitable march toward a new culture of convenience, well, that’s not a culture I’m willing to support at the expense of all else. Instead, I choose to support the people and places and things that I love.

I’m sure Amazon will resume selling my books, eventually. But even when they do, I hope you’ll consider supporting your community and the culture of books. If you want to live in a world with bookstores, then you need to buy books from bookstores.

Click HERE to order a book from an independent bookstore.

And click HERE to pre-order my upcoming book.

This post was originally published in 2014, but is probably still as relevant as ever, today.

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123 responses to “Amazon Is Destroying My Favorite Things!”

  1. Jasmine says:

    Never really liked Amazon all the much, and I really started to loathe it as a company when they started encouraging people to report the cost of various items from their local business so they could undersell them.

  2. Amazon is no saint…but Hachette isn’t either.

    http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/amazon-v-hachette-dont-believe-the-spin/

    I was raised in a bookstore literally using the stacks as a jungle gym and Amazon makes me sad but as you said, they are giving the publishers a kick in the pants that is probably needed somehow.

    good luck with your book.

    • Peter Brown says:

      I could probably find something to hate about every multi-national corporation, maybe even Hachette. But Hachette isn’t destroying my favorite things. Amazon is.

      • Tony says:

        Amazon is paying publishers 70% of retail. If the publisher is you, you keep the whole thing. Your publisher is likely paying you 15% (or less) of retail and pocketing the rest. The publisher is not the good guy here.

        “I need a publisher in order to do my job,”

        No. You don’t. Nor does anyone else in the 21st Century.. They serve no function that can’t be purchased for a flat fee.

        Why are you convinced that they provide 5-6 times more value to your books than you do? They don’t. You’re the one writing the books, not them.

        • Peter Brown says:

          My publishers provide me with amazing editors who I couldn’t afford to hire on my own. They provide me with marketing materials like activity kits, publicity like book tours, advertisements in literary journals, none of which I could afford on my own. They spare no expense on the production of my books. They have relationship with distributors and booksellers and AMAZON that I don’t. All of that takes money and energy and expertise that I don’t have. All I want to do is write and draw and interact with fellow book lovers, and my publishers allow me to do that.

        • Ben Archer says:

          I don’t know where you got your 70% number, but nobody in the history of bookselling has ever paid the publishers 70% of list price for physical books. Could you have meant 30%? They might have negotiated a 70% discount, but they don’t pay 70%. This comment could persuade people that publishers are making way more money from Amazon than they are. Amazon is known for being one of the hardest negotiators in the industry.

          • Christine Onorati says:

            Absolutely right, Amazon forces the largest possible discount they can get from publishers and it’s way higher than what other retail channels (i.e, indie bookstores) get. It’s not remotely close to 70% of retail.

  3. Leslie Guyton says:

    Off to buy a book from a local seller now. 🙂 Great post!

  4. Becky says:

    Thanks for going wild and bravely speaking out! Someone needs to do so.

  5. Wonderfully written post! Thank you for the courage to speak passionately and bravely about a challenging topic. With little kids, the lure of Amazon’s delivery to my door is great, but the lure of your next book is even greater. Island Books (WA), here I come!

  6. Kyle S. says:

    I’m not sure what these mythical “booksellers” are, that aren’t either minimum wage high school and college students, or dead-eyed middle aged women whose souls have been crushed out by years spent working as a cashier?

    • Peter Brown says:

      Kyle, I’m sorry if there’s an unpleasant bookstore near you. I’m sure they exist. But I’ve been to literally hundreds of bookstores over my career, and I assure you the vast majority of booksellers are passionate about books. Even the teens. Even the cashiers. If you go to http://www.indiebound.org you can find some great bookstores near you.

    • Consuelo says:

      Kyle, Booksellers are by no means mythical or rare. Young, old, small, tall, we are diverse and many. I myself am a 31-year-old, college degree holding lover of books. I am not in the book selling business to make money, I do it because I am passionate about reading, and I love to share that passion with my community.

  7. There are two sides to every coin. I think that it is just Capitalism at work which a good thing. A Free Market is why so many people want to come here. Anyone can work hard and have a chance at making it. I am self-published. I worked very hard writing and illustrating my books but have been unable to pick up a traditional publisher. Millions of authors are turned down each year because they only publish one or two new books a year. Stephanie Meyer couldn’t get a publisher for Twilight. But she didn’t give up and now they come to her to get a piece of the pie. So I did it myself. I sell my children’s books on Amazon and they print and mail them for me too. It is almost impossible to get a children’s book published and put in stores by traditional methods and almost impossible to have one of these terrific book stores to display your work if it self-published.. But many people do have something they want to share with the world. Why should we let a handful of publishing companies decide what we all are able to see and buy? I love book stores too but if they can’t compete with mail-order then they need to rethink their system.

    • Peter Brown says:

      It IS hard to get published the traditional way. If it were easy everyone would do it and it wouldn’t be very special. But not every book needs to be published the traditional way. If self-publishing makes sense for you, then great! Amazon certainly ain’t the only way to self-publish, but I know little about these things. Maybe self-publishing is something Amazon is doing right. All I know is that Amazon is doing real damage to the things I love most…like book culture and bookstores.

  8. Deni the Librarian says:

    I applaud your post Peter. I love independent and locally owned bookstores as much as anyone… However, I don’t think it’s fair (or accurate) to say there would be no book culture without booksellers. I certainly hope you agree that libraries contribute a great deal to book culture.

    • Peter Brown says:

      Oh, that goes without saying! But I’ll say it anyway…libraries are essential for book culture, and I’ve updated my blog post, accordingly.

  9. I expect that you are right, Peter, however sad it makes us; the cost and convenience of on-line big-box shopping will forever change the retail sales of just about everything. Even as the conscientious few stand up and refuse to participate, the market will respond, as markets do, favoring price over ethics (yes, we should stand up anyway).

    I am optimistic that book-culture will not fail us, however. I give you one anecdote. My son and I read a book together, and then we went to the author’s website to see what other books we might enjoy. On the website, we found information, artwork, and even a video fieldtrip into the author’s studio. My son and I left a message on the author’s facebook page, and within hours received a kind response, appreciative and encouraging (thank you again).

    Who will now find a way that these resilient book lovers can, in their own minds, justify spending their money to support these authors and illustrators? The publishers? Amazon’s self publishing system? Not likely. Even in my optimism, I think we lack a messiah.

    Here’s a sound-byte, in case you missed it. http://www.npr.org/2014/05/29/316891536/authors-angered-over-amazon-s-dispute-with-publisher-hachette

  10. Sorry Peter. I don’t agree with you. I don’t support price-fixing and secret negotiations to price Amazon out of the ebook business. I don’t think that you should support it either.

    http://publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/51469-the-broad-strokes-of-the-hachette-harpercollins-and-s-s-price-fixing-settlement.html

    • Peter Brown says:

      I generally don’t support illegal behavior, either. But let’s just say the last three paragraphs of that article speak for me. Pricing of E-books is tricky business, do you price a book so that more customers can afford it, or do you price a book so that the author can earn enough to write more books? What’s the balance? Personally, I think what authors and illustrators and publishers do is important work, and deserves to be valued appropriately by society. Those publishers are simply trying to get what they, and their authors deserve. And once again, Amazon is devaluing books.

      • Eric Welch says:

        I fail to find your argument that Amazon is devaluing books persuasive. Are they trying to obtain the best price possible for their customers? Of course. Have they made books much more widely available than before? Absolutely. Is the value of a book to be determined solely by the price assigned to it? That’s nonsense and devaluing on the face of it. The value of a book is determined by its content, and if more people can afford to get a book, that’s a very good thing that has nothing to do with its intrinsic value.

        Personally, I find it amusing that James Patterson of the book factory who doesn’t even write his own books any more out there worried about the state of literature.

        Now we find Walmart and the other big-box retailers, including B&N, marking down Hachette books even further. That’s going to help Hachette?

        • Peter Brown says:

          Do you think Amazon will continue slashing prices when they’re the only bookseller left? Why would they need to? If you want to live in a world with bookstores, then you need to buy books from bookstores.

  11. How exactly is Amazon “threatening the entire culture of books?” If it truly intends to destroy bookselling, selling more books than anyone else is a funny way to go about it…

    And the slave labor accusations are a bit much. It’s a warehouse job. Warehouse jobs aren’t great in general, but Amazon’s are said to be okay. I know there was a queue of people in my neck of the woods lining up to apply because they thought the pay was pretty good.

    For comparison, Bertelsmann (owner of Penguin Random House), used *actual* slave labor in WW2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertelsmann#1835_to_2000

    And re Hachette specifically, its owner (Lagardere Group) has a stake in EADS, an arms manufacturer which makes components for cluster bombs, has been investigated by the UK Serious Fraud Office for bribery in Saudi Arabia, was done for bribing South African politicians to bag an arms deal, and was further investigated for insider trading. And I’d imagine that’s the tip of the iceberg.

    Amazon is pussycat in comparison, but I do hope the dispute gets resolved quickly, especially because authors always suffer most in these spats.

    P.S. I see all your available books on Amazon: Mr. Tiger, Curious Garden, Creepy Carrots etc.

    • Peter Brown says:

      I’m making a philosophical argument that we should all be more mindful of how we spend our money. I have a problem with people mindlessly doing what’s convenient without realizing that their actions might have real consequences. But with all of the information and misinformation floating around, it’s impossible to know, with certainty, which companies truly reflect our values. And as you point out, most large companies have a dark side. All we can do is try to be informed, and try to make thoughtful decisions. In my opinion, Hachette does more good than harm. I’m not so sure about Amazon. I don’t think it’s an “Evil” corporation, but I do think that it’s existence has been bad for brick-and-mortar bookstores. I happen to love bookstores.

      I know that most people don’t have time to ponder the kinds of issues I raised in my post, so I decided to share my point of view. If someone weighs the pros and cons and decides that Amazon deserves their patronage, I have no problem with that. I would rather people purchase books from Amazon than not purchase books at all. But I think their money will be even better spent by purchasing books from their local bookseller. They’ll be expanding their own personal library, and investing in their culture and community.

  12. Deni the Librarian says:

    Thanks Peter! I knew you thought that but it’s important to point out for others -and there are many! – that believe libraries are no longer vital. I live in a small town in MN and the library where I work gets an average of 600 visitors daily. This number nearly triples in the summer months. I wish Amazon would stop doing terrible things. They can have a negative impact on libraries too. Anyway, thank you for speaking up. Oh, and it also goes without saying that our kids love your books but I’ll say it anyway. 🙂

  13. RebeccaLiz says:

    I have to take issue with the description of booksellers as “lovers of books”. It may be true in the case of small, independant book shops – and in my experience, it is – but it’s certainly not true of Waterstones, or Borders, or any other high street chain book shop.

    Workers in those shops are bored teenagers working for minimum wage. Amazon gves me variety and affordability, in no small part due to its lower-cost business structre.

    Keep libraries for us bibliophiles, and by all means create a reasonable competitor for Amazon to keep them honest, but don’t ftishize high street book sellers. They aren’t really killing the secnd-hand or specialist book markets anyway.

    • Peter Brown says:

      I didn’t really discuss the big chain bookstores. I prefer independent bookstores, but I would argue that any physical store, even Waterstones or B&N, offers a place for authors and illustrators and booksellers and booklovers to interact. They’re a space for nurturing culture and community. But when we give our money to Amazon, that’s money not going back into our community, it’s money that’s not nurturing culture the way it could. I want lots of books in my home, but I also want lots of culture and bookstores and libraries in my town. As far as those minimum wage workers go, aren’t we lucky that people are willing to work so hard for so little money? Booksellers deserve to be paid better, which is another reason I’m trying to support them, in my own little way.

      • Eric Welch says:

        The battle is really about distribution and the control of how books are distributed. Copyright law gives authors and publishers a monopoly to print and sell their works. For Peter Brown’s work, for example, you have to go to his publisher to whom he has sold the exclusive right to print and distribute his works. A constant battle then ensues between retailers and publishers on the price at which to sell the book. The publisher wants to keep the price high and the discounts low while the retailer, regardless of size or affiliation, wants the opposite. That’s normal business.

        What muddies the water is the intermediary distributors like Ingram and Baker & Taylor who, in order to make distribution more efficient, insert themselves between the publisher (wholesaler) and retailer (bookstore.) Unfortunately many independents bookstores, especially independents, in my experience as a consumer and librarian who tried to support independent bookstores locally, has been that if a book is unavailable from Ingram or the discount is not high enough (40% at least) they won’t carry it. In several instances where I have tried to purchase a book by a local author from an independent bookstore (and B&N) I have been told to “order it online” because they won’t carry the book. Amazon carries everything. Now who’s devaluing the book? The bookstore who won’t carry it? Or, the online store who will but wants to sell it cheaper?

        • Peter Brown says:

          In an ideal world we’d all change our spending habits, Amazon would become less powerful, and booksellers and publishers and Amazon could all coexist. But Amazon doesn’t want to coexist with the rest, it wants to dominate, at the expense of things that I love.

    • Nicky says:

      Let’s not entirely demonize or write-off the chain bookstores, either. I too prefer shopping at smaller, more personable, more PERSONAL stores of course–but even at the big stores you can get friendly, helpful, knowledgeable people. Some of whom ARE teenagers, gasp! And some of whom aren’t. I’ve never encountered any grumpy, ignorant, illiterate, unhelpful folks at my local Barnes & Noble…but of course, I go in with a smile and a polite request, which I find often makes it a lot easier to find helpful responses when I shop. Because of course the thing to remember is, while you can indeed find people working at the big bookstores who are “just doing a job,” it’s not a glamorous job…unless you LIKE books. Then it’s the best sort of retail job available, because it provides an excuse to Talk About Books WHILE one toils away at their otherwise thankless retail job. Which is usually what the employees at my local Big Bookstore store end up doing with me, when I go shopping there. Still not as nice as the individual stores, no…but better than the total blankness of shopping online, methinks!

      • Sara says:

        I like B&N myself; there are no indie bookstores within 50 miles of my home, at least none that sell children’s books. I haven’t looked into shipping fees at online versions of Indie stores, but I’m sure it is like $5+. I wish these two companies would kiss and make up already. It seems like the authors (and by extension readers) are getting the fallout from extreme greed.

  14. This is an important discussion. My debut novel, WHEELS OF CHANGE, wwill make its appearance this fall and it’s upsetting to discover such underhanded practices. Books don’t often get the respect they deserve. If we’re not careful, like all things taken for granted, it will disappear. That’s the worst kind of censorship.

  15. Very well said, and thank you. I’m posting a link from my Facebook page. I’ve seen this from several people and it looks like you’re going viral!

  16. ReclusiveQ says:

    This is a very good article. Reading through it plus the other articles that were linked, I can see that both sides are at least somewhat in the wrong, but even so, it’s not fair to punish the authors who put their heart into the books they write. Because it seems like this issue doesn’t really affect either the publisher or the seller, it affects the writers.

    That being said, I don’t buy from big name booksellers often. I prefer to buy used books from the library. The library I used to work at had a constant book sale going on, and the money from that went back to the library and that was all the reason I needed to keep buying from them. If they didn’t have a specific book for sale that I wanted, it didn’t matter, because I could usually find something new that I’d never read before. And that ties in with your idea of keeping the money in the community.

  17. John Nez says:

    I guess it’s also the whole modern world that is killing the things I love. There is a distinct heartlessness that goes along with devotion to undercutting prices and being so selfish and petty.

    My neighborhood used to have 3 great bookstores. Then Barnes & Noble came along and killed them all off. But then then the modern world and e-books killed off the neighborhood Barnes & Noble. So now there is no bookstore in my neighborhood – and it is sad. The bookstore was the one store in the mall where people gathered.

    Now there’s just one more creepy high-end furniture outlet there. We already have 3 useless furniture stores. I figure the modern world wants more high-end furniture.

    We also used to have a hardware store and a fabric store to buy paint and lumber and fabric to make things. I guess the modern world doesn’t make many things, since they’re all cheaper from slave labor factories.

    I also hold all politicians guilty of looking the other way and failing to enforce the criminal violations of the WTO. I don’t get why there aren’t more tariffs and import duties to level the playing field? Our books are all published in China, so why isn’t there a tax that corporations have to pay for printing and importing our books from China?

    I like some things about Amazon, like ordering things without having to drive all over town to try to find them. Amazon is all about ease and efficiency and comparison shopping, all good thrifty American things. But the petty race to the bottom isn’t very admirable.

    • Peter Brown says:

      You said it, John, the modern world is killing the things I love. It’s definitely not just Amazon, but they’re the prime example. Pun intended.

      But I think if you gave people a choice, they’d choose to have bookstores around. What most people don’t realize is that it’s up to all of us whether bookstores and book culture survive. We can choose to hold on to wonderful things, even as technology moves forward. We have that choice. I just want people to choose, one way or the other. I hope they’ll choose to support a little more than their own desire for convenience. I hope they’ll choose to support their local booksellers.

  18. First, I do feel for your predicament. And your books look wonderful. That being said, I’m confused by your post. Books, in whatever form (print, digital, audio) are just a mode of delivering the real product: your story. How can selling books at lower prices, devalue them? In fact, in a world where we want people of all economic classes to have books and to read, is it not a good thing for books to be available at lower cost? It’s not like Amazon is taking a book and stripping it of it’s identity by throwing a generic brown paper wrapper on it with the word BOOK. If that was happening, then I’d agree with you completely that books were being devalued. But it’s not. These are the same books (same story), lower price. Let’s say there is some child’s parents who can’t afford one of your books at the full price, but if they find it discounted at Amazon or some other book seller, they could afford it for their child. How is that devaluing your book? If a woman with crippling arthritis and limited income can only read on her ereader because of the ease of use, and is able to buy and read three times as many ebooks because of discount pricing at Amazon, how is this devaluing books? It’s wrong that more people can afford books? It’s evil that now people who love to read can afford to read MORE? Any way I try to look at it, I just can’t see the “Amazon is devaluing books” argument. In fact, it seems the opposite.
    I love writers and support them vigorously. For your sake, I hope an arrangement is worked out soon between your publisher and Amazon, but your argument didn’t convince me that books at lower prices are a bad thing or compel me to change my buying habits. I try to buy locally (local book sellers, produce, gifts) because I like to keep my money in my community, but these days, with the cost of putting two kids through college strangling our budget like a vise, I also often buy where I can find the deals. And speaking of college – Amazon has made it affordable for my kids to get their textbooks through either buying used or even better, renting. They are grateful, since they are responsible for their own books and materials. I don’t really think they’d go for your idea of biting the bullet and spending more elsewhere.

    • Peter Brown says:

      As I said, if cost and convenience really are of paramount importance, go ahead and use Amazon. It seems that this is true for you and your family. I hope your kids use those discounted textbooks to get a great education, I hope they fall in love with reading, I hope they grow up and earn hefty paychecks, and when they’re financially comfortable, I hope they’ll choose to invest in their communities and culture by supporting places like bookstores.

      Also, as I said, Amazon sells books at artificially low prices, they are quite literally devaluing books. As a result, many bookstores no longer exist. That means there are fewer places to be surrounded by booklovers, there are fewer places to meet authors and illustrators, there are fewer places to stumble upon new books. Those are the kinds of cultural experiences that I cherish, and there are fewer of them because of Amazon. I don’t hate Amazon, I just really love bookstores.

      • Peter says:

        Amazon didn’t start the trend of devaluing books. Publishers have been playing games with pricing (printing a high “list price” on the book so bookstores can then sell it at a “discount”, for example) since before Amazon existed as a gleam in Bezos’ eye.

  19. Robin says:

    So glad authors are speaking out! The publishing world does not have to be beholden to Amazon.com. I just wish Congress had seen their tax-evading, monopolistic ways in time to prevent them from becoming so powerful.

  20. jon says:

    I am saddened to see book stores close as well as libraries but
    just as I tunes and You Tube has allowed new artist to break through
    amazon is making easy for young writers to self publish and be read.
    You mentioned earlier that not all books need to be published. Well
    I think your wrong and who are you a published author to decide this?
    I hope you and company work things out. But its not just Amazons fault when it comes to book stores closing. e readers and a more environmentally conscious public not to mention ballooned prices have done more to end book stores. The world is changing. the argument has gone from small book stores vs large book stores, to Large book stores vs Amazon to Bookstores vs e readers. Published authors vs self published. A community of book lovers must come together to support the thing they love, but a rational way to save bookstores in a world that has no need for them only a want seems nearly impossible.

    • Peter Brown says:

      That’s an interesting point, Jon. WANTING bookstores vs. NEEDING bookstores. Do we NEED Amazon? Do we NEED books to be dirt cheap? Do we NEED books at all? We could always regress back to primitive ways and simply survive. All we really NEED is food and shelter and to live long enough to reproduce. But we don’t WANT to live that way. We WANT to be comfortable. We WANT to be educated. We WANT to live happy lives.

      Who knows, maybe we don’t NEED bookstores, but I WANT bookstores with every fiber of my being. We can prioritize the things that we really care about, and we can choose to support the culture of books. If people prefer convenience to culture, that’s there choice. I’m just trying to remind people that they do have a choice.

  21. Searching out bookstores in every town and country I visit is a very important part of the experience. For me it tells you a lot about that particular society and what they value. Also, when I look at my many books carefully chosen over the years, I have certain books that carry with them remarkable memories. When I read “Barbapapa” to my child I always remember the bookstore in France where I discovered it, I remember the mood and my excitement. I have a book purchased from “Shakespeare and Company” in Paris, that book carries the memories of an afternoon spent amongst old and loved books in an iconic bookstore. One of my treasures is an old “Peter Pan” illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman that I found one night in a small cramped bookstore in New York City. I think of that incredible evening every time I see that book in my shelf. There are some books purchased on Charing Cross Road in London and that was an incredible experience! I now have a “Mr Tiger Goes Wild” that I bought from a librarian at a school in Singapore and that one has been added to my shelf of memories! Then I have dozens of books that have no purchase memory, I love those books, but they came to me in a box from Amazon. I do like opening those boxes and I do like getting books cheap, but I love the other experience more because the experience is “more” and I am willing to pay more for it. I do worry about what places like Amazon is doing to the whole book experience, but how do I resist when my local bookstore does not have what I am looking for and amazon does? There is no good small bookstore where I live now. I read about books and I can’t always get them here, so I get them from Amazon who ships it to me free and I am very grateful that I can get them. Would I rather jump on the train and go sit in a bookstore for a few hours leaving through that book making sure that I even want to own it and enjoy the smell of all the books around me? Absolutely, but that is not always possible. I think we need both experiences. Discovering a treasure in a bookstore and being able to buy books you would otherwise not have been able to, if there were no amazons in the world. But if a book is really worth while and Amazon refuses to sell it, I for one will still hunt it down and buy it and hope to make some memories while doing it.

    • Peter Brown says:

      I understand how frustrating it can be when there are no good bookstores nearby, or none that carry the specific book you want. But know that you can order any book on almost any independent bookstore’s website, and they’ll ship it to your home. Will it be as seamless an experience as clicking twice on Amazon? Nope. It’ll take a few more minutes to place the order. And it’ll take a few more days for the book to get to you. But, all things considered, those “inconveniences” seem like a small price to pay compared to the good you’ll be doing.

  22. This afternoon I am meeting with friends to attend a free author panel at one of my local Independent Bookstores. I get to hang out with my writer friends, get inspired by the world-class authors, and show my support for the indie bookstore just by showing up. It doesn’t cost me anything. I can’t get that from Amazon.

    I’d rather buy one book at The Odyssey and have to reread it than buy two books from Amazon. And for those people who don’t have the means to purchase a book at full cost, please consider using the library rather than Amazon. We can speak with our actions AND our money.

    Thanks for a clear, informative take on the dispute. Will share widely.

  23. Natalie says:

    Where we buy is a choice, but so is where you sell. I’m curious why you sell your books on Amazon if you feel so strongly that their business model is devaluing your work and destroying a culture you love. I’d imagine it’s their marketing and reach that increase your sales and exposure, making it worth selling at a loss (actual or perceived).

    I respect your decision on the business front, but from an ideological point, if you really believe Amazon is destroying all the things you love, it seems your choice to sell there makes you complicit in that destruction. I’d find your argument more persuasive if you withdrew your products from Amazon. As it stands, it really just sounds like you’re mad that they’re impeding your sales.

    • Peter Brown says:

      It’s not my choice where my books are sold, those choices are made by my publisher. I need a publisher in order to do my job, and publishers need booksellers in order to do their jobs. Whether we like it or not, Amazon is the biggest bookseller in the world, and publishers can’t afford NOT to have their books sold there. Amazon knows this, and is trying to squeeze every lost drop out of publishers. That is business as usual in America. The problem is that this particular business overlaps with information and education and culture in sensitive ways, and Amazon’s predatory tactics are harming things many of us cherish.

      It is incredibly frustrating and confusing to feel dependent on a company that is destroying my favorite things. Life is all about finding the right balance between our different needs, and I’m just hoping we can find more balance in the book business. I don’t want Amazon to disappear. In an ideal world we’d all change our spending habits, Amazon would become less powerful, and booksellers and publishers and Amazon could all coexist. But Amazon doesn’t want to coexist with the rest, it wants to dominate, at the expense of our culture.

  24. Much though I love Amazon’s convenience, love my Kindle and of course all my Kindle’s contents, love my Prime account for access to streaming video and free shipping, etc. — even with all that, I am really, really appalled by Amazon’s behavior in this. I’m even (or especially) appalled as an author published by companies OTHER than Hachette.

    Why? Because no good can come of this, for ANYONE other than Amazon. It’s like that old mini-story by Martin Niemöller, i.e. (in one version) “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    Authors who assert that this is no big deal because they can always self-publish THROUGH AMAZON are living in a dream world. What makes them think they’re immune to having the screws put to THEM, too? “Oh, but Amazon needs us—”

    Ha.

    I’ve got a couple little titles available in the Kindle store, too, but I’m under no illusion — it’s (arguably) an okay deal, if not a good one. But I don’t believe for a second that it couldn’t be made even better FOR AMAZON… and that it will never be.

    Likewise, the “Oh but this is just the free market at work!” argument. It’s the Wal-Mart tactic: We’ll tell you what you will charge for your product, [MasterLock/Levi Strauss/Huffy Bicycles/etc.]. If you don’t like it you can do without us, right? — sending them all overseas, and/or killing the quality of the goods themselves.

    Drives me crazy! (Obviously. :))

  25. Nicky says:

    I work at a comic book store (I would say “small” and “local” but I don’t think there’s anyone around here under the illusion that there ARE big chain comic book stores, right? Not really!) and far more often than once a month, I have a customer (not an accurate term really, but let’s use it for argument’s sake) come in who needs some help, needs some information. Or they just want advice or a recommendation. I walk them around the store and show them a few things, get excited about the stories and explain at a little more length than they were probably expecting, and give them all sorts of ideas of good books to buy and what order to read them in and answer all their little questions about the often confusing world of comics.

    And then as things wind down and I step back to let them have some free space in which to make their decision about what book(s) to leave with, that’s when it becomes clear that they AREN’T really a customer. At least, not a customer of OURS. Sometimes they’re upfront about it (callously, carelessly, unconcernedly) and sometimes they mumble excuses and sidle away with promises to come back “later.” But there’s never any doubt: now that they know what they want to buy, they’re off to get it from Amazon for a few dollars less.

    They want the experience of shopping at a proper bookstore, they want the expertise and the assistance, but they aren’t about to PAY for it! Support their local shop? Don’t be silly! They only come into the store for INFORMATION, they’ll actually spend their MONEY online–saving themselves a few dollars, and never thinking about the fact that if EVERYBODY shopped the way they did, then the NEXT time they need someone to explain the ins-and-outs of thirty years of contradictory continuity, they’d be stuck relying on Google because we wouldn’t be here any more.

    And I know for a fact that sort of thing happens to “real” bookstores, too. And really, that’s the main source of MY problem with Amazon and with those who prefer to shop there. They get away with charging less than SRP because customers are all too happy not to pay it, and companies are all too happy to sell at bulk discounts, and because they OFFER less than the standard retail experience…and because nobody ever stops to ask themselves, “what happens next time?”

    • Peter Brown says:

      Amen. I was just speaking to a great indie bookstore owner yesterday who said he sees that same thing happen all the time at his store. The real point of this conversation is to simply let people know that they have choices to make, and by thoughtlessly buying everything from Amazon they’re choosing NOT to support real bookstores. Some people even think that they’re INCONVENIENCING booksellers by asking them for help, or asking them to order a book. That is a booksellers job, they want to do it, they’re good at it. But to go in to a store, use their expertise to discover new books, and then buy those books elsewhere is, frankly, immoral.

      • Nicky says:

        Immoral, yes — that is the PERFECT word for that kind of behavior. Thank you.

        (And yes, we really DO love questions!)

  26. Bravo Peter!! We support EVERYTHING you said… I hope MORE publishers stand up to Amazon and join Hachette in keeping the playing field balanced. If you ever come to Detroit you have a forum to read and promote your books. Thank you! Here’s a link to the situation in Europe: http://tinyurl.com/qz7q2hz

  27. Lori says:

    I love indie bookstores, the library and Amazon. I have purchased WAY more books because of Amazon than I would ever have otherwise. Not just because of price and convenience but because most everything is available (not always the case at an indie or library.) Also, I do like the feature of recommending other books to me I love learning about other authors, illustrators and books in ANY way that I can.

    • Peter Brown says:

      The dream is for coexistence between bookstores, libraries, and Amazon…and publishers. But Amazon is a bully and wants total dominance over the industry, and in the process is destroying my favorite things, like the book culture that can only be had at bookstores.

      And I think you’d be surprised at the selection of books available at bookstores and library systems. My library often doesn’t have the specific book I want, so I place a hold, and then a few days later the book magically appears at my local library. My local bookstores often don’t have the books that I want, so I have them order it, and a few days later it magically appears at their store, or at my mailbox. Lastly, Amazon’s algorithms aren’t the only way to get book recommendations, librarians and booksellers are awfully good at recommending books, too!

      • Kate Barsotti says:

        You often can get any book you want from a local bookstore. The owners of Reading Reptile are so nice, they let me lob emails at them asking them to order this or that book. Nine times out of ten, they can get it for me. When it arrives, they send me a text message, and it’s there waiting. And they reward frequent customers with discounts.

        Amazon will not sustain writers’ careers; discounted books mean small royalty checks, and it is already tough to make a living as a writer or illustrator. Are publishers perfect? No. But I cannot imagine functioning without them (especially if you write for kids). Some of the most brilliant people I’ve met are agents and editors. They can analyze plot structure and other mechanics of a narrative better, and faster, than I will ever be able to.

        Don’t kid yourself; Amazon treats their self-published authors pretty well now, but that will change. They used to play nice with publishers. Now that they need Amazon, Amazon asks for more and more. At some point, publishers cannot keep feeding the beast and survive. That means authors go down, too. Is Amazon going to showcase your favorite author anywhere? Hold events and signings? Hand you a book that you have never heard of, and end up loving? Do you get to hang out and have luscious, booky conversations with book sellers and other readers? Nope.

        It’s not “technology,” or capitalism, or any such thing. It’s about power and choice. The end of book stores is not inevitable, some evolutionary force we cannot stop. We decide our culture by our purchases and choices. Put your money where your values are.

  28. NancyO says:

    Let me just say this. There are other angles you’re not considering here. I live in an area where there is one bookstore unless I want to drive an hour away, which is not convenient. Even that bookstore, which is Barnes and Noble, has a minimal selection at best. Yes, we have a library, but a)with local budget cuts, the selection is awful and b) if I want a book that’s just been published, forget about it — there’s already a mile-long waitlist. I’m a voracious reader, and without Amazon, where would I buy my books?

    • Peter Brown says:

      I have absolutely considered that angle, and I’ve replied to earlier comments that make your point.

      Maybe considering ordering books off the website of your nearest independent bookstore? Even if it’s 500 miles away? Yes, it means you’ll have to create a new account with the store, but you’ll only have register once, and then you can easily order from them. They’ll happily ship it right to your door. It might cost a couple more dollars, and it might take a couple more days, but you’ll be doing something good for book culture. And if that doesn’t work, go ahead and order online from B&N or Amazon.

  29. Jonathan M. says:

    I agree with so many of your wonderful comments you write. Proclaim the evils that is Amazon because (in your own words) “Amazon is doing real damage to the things I love most…like book culture…like my own book sales.”

    You list all these evils of the book industry and how culture is dying because in the end your book sales are being affected. Excuse me a moment as I wipe a tear away for the death of culture. I don’t know about you or any of your readers, but I don’t need to be on a first name basis with my author to be able to appreciate their book. I don’t need to have some bitter or excited cashier ring up my book purchase in order to justify my “love of books.” You want to interact with people about your love of books, join a book club. Don’t expect me to pay more money and get less service just so you can have your cute little “culture” that allows you to have a book reading.

    If you really want us to believe you are so upset with the culture of the book industry, why didn’t you negotiate with your publisher and explicitly ban them from selling your book on Amazon? If you expect the masses to sacrifice the convenience and low prices of shopping on amazon, shouldn’t we expect you to give up something in exchange!

    Or is this just another circumstance of standing on your soap box (and we know how you feel about soap!) and telling everyone else how to live your life while in reality all you care about is your own self interest! Trust me, we’re all very happy for you that you were able to get published by one of the large publishing houses, now don’t expect everyone to subsidize your view of “culture.”

    • Peter Brown says:

      Nice try, Jonathan. But I’m smarter than I look.

      You are completely missing the point. All I’m saying is that if we want to live in a world with bookstores, than we need to buy books from bookstores. There are people who actually care about culture, and who actually love living in a world with bookstores, but who don’t realize that bookstores will go away if we don’t buy books from them. Those are the people I’m speaking to.

      You clearly don’t share my view on this subject. You clearly want to live in a world without bookstores, which breaks my heart, but that’s your right.

  30. Anne says:

    There is a lot of hyperbole and concerns presented as fact in here. I’m sorry that you have ended up as a pawn for Hachette in their negotiations for Amazon but unless you have inside information, you have no idea what the sticking point is. Yes, Amazon could be asking for higher margins. So could Hachette. Hachette could also be asking for agency pricing or windowing or any number of things as well. Considering that Hachette is the one that was guilty of colluding to fix the pricing of digital books, it makes their motives more suspect to me.

    Short version: Shaming people for buying at Amazon with incorrect or incomplete information is not the way to make friends and influence this person to buy your books.

    • Peter Brown says:

      I thought I was pretty gentle and tactful in my argument, but if I’ve shamed you, Anne, I’m sorry. Truly. You’re right, that’s no way to influence people.

      It’s really quite simple. If we want to live in a world with bookstores, we need to buy books from bookstores. That’s my real point. The Hachette vs. Amazon negotiation just seemed like a good opportunity to voice my concerns, and to work out the kinks of my philosophy on the state of book selling, which is what I’m still doing as I type these words.

  31. Howard says:

    Peter, here’s the thing.

    Firstly. I love books too. Have done all my life. I read 43 last year and about 18 already this year. But what I love is the writing, the story telling, the flights of imagination.
    When you find yourself getting off on the smell, you should pause and realise there is something wrong.

    Secondly, as a reader, your favourite thing is not really important to me. I am sure it is to you, but I’m the one paying the money.

    With Amazon I can find hundreds of times more books than in any dusty boring bookstore. I can communicate with other readers and share how we feel about books. I find others who love the same books. We customers have a book culture where we treasure the books and introduce each other to new writers that we would never ever have learned about.

    You see, Amazon love readers. And being a reader, I love them. You earn money from your books, so you love your books. But I pay the money so I get to decide. And Amazon take care of me in a way that bookshops and writers and publishers don’t. And when you pour your scorn and resentment all over Amazon, you pour it over me. So you will understand when I tell you that i find your attitude toward readers quite nauseous and odious.

    Another thing. You cannot seriously be trying to persuade anyone that expensive means good, and cheap means bad. Can you ? Because it is rather silly of you if you are.

    Hatchette is having problem with Amazon. Amazon owns their own business and if they don’t want to deal with Hatchette then they don’t have to. If Hatchette has a problem then they should stop dealing with Amazon. You should write to your publisher and tell them that.

  32. I’m a proponent of printed books, as I feel they function better.
    And I suspect that the evolution to electronic files as pseudo-books is causing shifts in literature away from the kind of things the shape and feel and functionality of printed books has long supported. My main complaint is that, as with so much technology, this is being effected in part by labeling older technology (print & paper) as old-fashioned and complaining about its several drawbacks, while praising only the advantages of the new technology, and its cool factors (while ignoring ITS drawbacks). Amazon is leading that movement, and I’d agree, they care less about the issues of literature and love of books and more about selling electronic files (so profitable for them) and all other things they can sell in volume and with as much consumption as possible; so books become files that we acquire cheaply, read quickly, and toss, instead of selecting, savoring, and treasuring.

    Sigh. I’d probably summarize that most people are gullible enough to go for the short-term benefits and easily lose sight of the larger cultural factors at play . . . things they won’t miss until they are gone.

    Full disclosure: I do sell books from my Crickhollow Books/Crispin Books indie house through Amazon, and honestly, we don’t get as much support from indie bookstores as I wished. Amazon has provided access to markets for smaller indie presses like mine. But we are not doing as well as we had some years back when there was a healthy network of indie bookstores that had the time and resources and inclination to support regional books and other worthy releases from indie presses that lacked big marketing budgets.

    • Peter Brown says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Philip. I do think that Amazon has led the way in creating a culture of antagonism (remember when they asked customers to photograph products in stores to then purchase on Amazon?) that forces Indie bookstores to assert themselves however they can. It’s hard to blame an indie store for boycotting Amazon.

  33. JamieT says:

    Look, at a human level I am sympathetic to your plight. That being said, I think it is misguided to accuse Amazon of destroying book culture. Amazon has been a godsend to many high volume readers and there are authors I have discovered on Amazon I likely would have never come across in a book store. If you define book culture as a “coming together” in a physical location, then yes, Amazon does not foster that sort of thing. Really, though, isn’t this just an outgrowth of the internet’s impact on all social interaction? More and more, people communicate via Facebook and specialized internet forums versus in real life. Book culture is adapting and changing and is ultimately a reflection of society at large.

    If you want to bemoan the loss of physical bookstores, large chain bookstores killed the smaller independents long before Amazon. I actually think with the death of Borders and soon B&N, there is more room for independents to coexist with Amazon but they will have to offer high levels of customer service and some sort of uniqueness of experience that will attract customers.

    Lastly, the argument that Hachette is fighting for authors is nonsense. The Big 5 is as profitable as they have ever been. They are making a killing on ebooks and not sharing any of that windfall with their authors. Instead, advances have been falling and books receive less and less support. The Big 5 are as responsible for killing book culture as anyone else and they have ultimately creating a sweatshop like environment for authors and have homogenized and diluted the quality of their portfolio to a terrible degree. Please don’t let me here another publisher talk about preserving “culture” when they are publishing the likes of Snooki and 50 Shades of Gray. Also, if you are not one of the anointed few million sellers, you are essentially an indentured servant running a treadmill just hoping your next release sells enough to keep you with your publisher. When I see the Big 5 improve royalty rates and be willing to share more of ebook pie with authors, versus their shareholders, I might have some sympathy for them but right now all Hachette is doing is fighting to keep ebook prices high under the agency model which primarily benefits their bottom line. The fact that authors receive the smallest piece of the book revenue pie in spite of being the content creator just sickens me, quite frankly.

    Sorry you got caught up in all this but Hachette is not some guardian angel and Amazon is not the devil – they are two large behemoths, both looking out for their own interests. Unfortunately some authors may experience a short term dip in sales as a result, but at the end of the day, employees of any large organization face turmoil, consolidations, layoffs etc. on almost a daily basis. It is an unfortunate circumstance of the world we live in today.

  34. Karen Jones says:

    What a wonderful post! If your books are written as well as you’ve written this post, then my family is getting your book(s)next! And they will be purchased from a brick and mortar book store.

  35. Thanks for writing this! One of the most elegant responses I have seen to Amazon’s practices in a long time. As someone who has been a bookseller on and off for over a decade I know there is not a simple answer to what comes next for the book business as a whole, but I know I don’t want to live in a world where Amazon is my only option.

  36. Eric Welch says:

    At the Financial Times, the POV of an independent publisher:
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e6349bb0-e820-11e3-b923-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz33bS7338G

    “As an independent publisher of 35 years’ standing, I beg to differ. The charges – that Amazon is too large, too powerful, and too willing to inflict pain on publishers and authors alike – strike me as a smokescreen, the work of powerful incumbents who have grown fat in a market that they have controlled for decades, and now fear they may have met their match.

    It is, after all, Hachette (along with four more large publishers) that was in recent memory accused of colluding to fix prices in the book market – in cahoots with Apple, another online seller of ebooks. The renegotiations that are now under way, and in which Amazon is accused of behaving unfairly, follow the efforts of the Department of Justice to unwind that illegal scheme.

    From an independent publisher’s point of view, Amazon is a forest in which a thousand flowers bloom. The company offers better terms than other retailers. We used to have to print enough copies to stock every bookshop, knowing that many of them would end up being returned unsold. But Amazon, which holds stock only in a few central warehouses, almost never makes returns. This allows us to shorten our print runs. Its algorithms put our titles in front of customers who might want to read them, surpassing even the best curated boutique. And it pays promptly.

    • Peter Brown says:

      I couldn’t have said it better myself, Eric. You have stated precisely why I don’t want Amazon to disappear. I just want it to have less of a stranglehold on the market.

  37. JMoore says:

    Excellent write up and observations Peter! Amazon is a pariah to the independent bookshop world. There is no question that in any economy you will have “giants” but this one finds ways to avoid paying taxes (which I am sure no independent seller gets to do that) and they have indeed devalued the actual and perceived value of literature. There is likely no stopping it either mainly because 1/2 or more of the people that will complain about the negative things a company like Amazon does for a local economy are also the same ones that go that night and order from them.

    For example, to compete in book sales online we have employed a program that pings Amazon and B&N for book titles and prices. If they move the price (up or down) our site works to match or get within 5% of their price. This is great for the consumer but it does nothing for our sales other than keeping a customer with us instead of the big chain. Because the margins become so highly compressed to further devalue the price of a book the bookseller is then left only making -2% to maybe 8% on each book sale. And yes that is a “negative” 2% I posted as many times we are charged a fee for a book that its price has been driven so low that the margin is literally gone. So what does this mean price wise? It means that on average a booksellers revenue per book (when competing with Amazon prices) is about $.80 cents.

    You do the math but there is a very real reason why independent bookshops have to convert over to Used, Out of Print and Rare book sales as New books just don’t hold enough value anymore thanks in large part to Amazons hardline strategies to run all publishers and bookshops out of business.

    • Peter Brown says:

      Thank you so much for this, whatever your name is. You’ve brought up some interesting issues. I’m not naive, I don’t expect Amazon to go away, I don’t WANT Amazon to go away. I just want people to realize that their spending habits matter. And if they want to live in a world with bookstores, they need to buy books from bookstores.

  38. Tré says:

    How places like B&N ever made a dime is still a mystery to me…..a few dozen myth busters sipping the same 4 hour old latte, studying for exams, and finger blasting their smartphones…..?

    Dumb business plan.
    Better idea…… Offer something that people HAVE to buy….not just read/use for free!!!

    • Peter Brown says:

      I don’t disagree. This is why bookstores bring in authors and artists to do book signings and readings. A signed book is something special that other places cannot offer. Plus, it’s good for the greater culture and community.

  39. Juraza says:

    Sounds like a sanctimonious pity-party to me. Quit your tantrum, grow up, and realize your publisher is as much to blame as Amazon is in this situation. Don’t sh!t (<-- edited by PB) all over people who want easy access to books (which is pretty much the hallmark of a cultured civilization) because you irrationally fear they may somehow do away with your idealized delusion of wizened, independent booksellers and be the calamitous end to civilization. I'm sorry your publisher is having a spat with a major distributor. That is a business conflict, not a culture war. Seriously. Grow up.

    • Peter Brown says:

      I don’t mean to toot my own horn, Juraza, but I actually thought my post was a pretty well written philosophical argument for supporting the things that I love, which, btw, are things that a lot of other people also love. But let me read my post again, just to be sure…

      …Yeah, that wasn’t half bad. I think you’re projecting, Juraza. I also think that everybody wants bookstores to exist. Who doesn’t love bringing their kids to story time, or love stumbling upon new beautiful books they’d never heard of, or love it when interesting authors come to town to do book signings? I think many people love the things that bookstores offer, but they don’t realize that if they don’t buy books from bookstores, bookstores will go away. So I’m simply pointing out these truths. I’m not asking people to suddenly buy ALL their books from independent bookstores. But if hardcore Amazon customers were to even buy 10% of their books from a local bookseller, that might mean a NEW bookstore could open, then there’d be even MORE cultural events happening in their town, which would lead to even more book lovers, which would lead to a smarter population, which would lead to a healthier economy with better jobs so people could earn more money and invest back in their community. See! I’ve got it all figured out! It’s so simple! If we want to live in a world with bookstores, then we need to buy books from bookstores.

      So now you know how much I love books and book culture and bookstores. I’m speaking up for things I believe in. This is as authentic as it gets, Juraza.

      • Dan Santat says:

        QUESTION I wonder if this whole argument is actually misdirected. Is it accurate to say Amazon VS Hachette or is it more accurate to say Amazon VS All Other Bookstores with Hachette being bullied into conforming to the Amazon business model in order to finance their long journey towards becoming a monopoly? Amazon is an Everything Store and books are just a small part of their business. Amazon could exist even if they didn’t sell books on their site, however, because they control such a large percentage of the trade market they can use that as leverage to help their profit margin (which has struggled over the years)

        In a capitalist society it’s all about making money. Amazon makes money by selling goods while Hachette makes money by making goods (books) to be sold. It’s not good capitalism if Amazon crushes publishing because then they would not be able to make money by the selling of the goods. The REAL issue here is that Amazon is pricing their books so low that other stores that sell books can’t compete with them and are slowly being forced out of business. If Amazon ends up being the only place you can buy said goods then they eventually can control the price of said goods because there is no competition in the market. The Colbert Report piece mentioned that Amazon controls 50% of the trade market which is a huge amount of profit that the publishers NEED to rely on which is why Amazon can use it so effectively as leverage for their terms.

        Amazon isn’t drastically discounting books to make it more affordable to enlighten you. Amazon sells books (more commonly at at a loss of profit) because they are taking the chance that they can crush brick and mortar stores. The notion that publishers are greedy is asinine. I’m looking at my 1981 copy of Jumanii and it cost me $17.95. That’s relatively the same cost you pay for picture books now. In 1981 my parents could fill up the gas tank in their car for $10. Now you’re looking at anywhere from $40-$80 (sometimes even more) In 35 years it now costs you, on average, 6X more to fill your tank. Yes, inflation on goods will go up after 35 years but in that time Jumanji is the same price now as it was 35 years ago. That’s not greed.

        • Peter Brown says:

          Well said, Dan. I hadn’t even thought about how books cost the same as they did in 1981, sheesh. And yeah, it really is Amazon vs. All Other Bookstores (and book culture, if you ask me), which is why I didn’t really wade into the Hachette situation. This is far bigger than just Amazon vs. Hachette.

    • Kate Barsotti says:

      Growing up means 1) not taking everything personally and 2) disagreeing respectfully. Peter is “grown up.” His responses prove it.

      It’s his blog. You came to visit. He is not attacking you, he is expressing an opinion.

      If you don’t like it, go read something else or reply with courtesy.

  40. Lauren says:

    Hello! I love your books, and I appreciate what you had to say about Amazon. I’m totally guilty of buying tons (way too many!) books off of their site. My problem is that I live in rural Canada with sadly no access to a real bricks and mortar bookstore. Do you happen to know if the Book Depository (UK site, similar to Amazon) is a better option for on-line ordering? Is there something else you would recommend for someone like me?

    • Peter Brown says:

      I totally understand, and believe me, I’ve given Amazon tons of money over the years, but those days are over. I’ve never bought anything from the Book Depository, but from what I see it looks like a pretty good online bookseller. However, you can also order books from almost every independent bookstore. If you happen to have a favorite store, whether it’s near or far from you, you might consider creating an account on their online store and making a habit of purchasing from them. Those kinds of little changes to our buying habits will restore some balance to the book business.

      • Andrea Vuleta says:

        Canada does have an organization of Indie Bookstores as well. Though I have not had to use any Canadian retailers for shipping, I do know of a list that folks have used – http://www.biblio.com/pages/canada_map_v2.html For what it is worth. Furthermore, there are a few US booksellers that ship overseas, usually for autographed US authors’ books.

  41. Kendra says:

    The real question is-what would Mr. Tiger say? (Sorry-I couldn’t help it!). I just told my boys last night we were going to make more of an effort to buy books at our indies. This issue has been a great reminder for me to be more purposeful about where I’m choosing to buy my books. (And other things…). I’m in an area where I can shop local-I just need to be more purposeful about it! Thanks for your thoughts!

  42. Fiona says:

    Oh, good God. Amazon is not destroying books. It is not perfect. It is an enormous corporation–as are the publishing companies. This is Goliath vs. Goliath.

    You are right–publishing did need a kick in the pants. And they were kicked repeatedly and ignored it, and are now whining because they didn’t act faster.

    I was at BEA and saw lines forming to talk to both traditional and indie-published authors. Most would be considered unknown authors (both traditional and self-published). Amazon is in large part responsible for the geeking out over self-published authors.

    I would have taken this post more seriously if not for the hysterical tone.

    • Fiona says:

      By the way, I spend AT LEAST $300/month at Amazon, and probably at least $70 of that is on books. Tell me again how they are destroying publishing?

    • Peter Brown says:

      Hysterical? Really? I honestly thought I was pretty cool about the whole thing. Fiona, you are clearly not alone in your beliefs. Nor am I. Good luck to us both.

  43. Thank you, Peter, for exposing your thoughts so candidly and
    clearly. I agree you everything you said. You are also being very patient with too many commenters who don’t, or don’t want to, understand what you are saying…

    • Peter Brown says:

      Thanks Sergio. The people talking about self-publishing have some interesting points, however, I fear that the self-published authors will someday face the wrath of Amazon, also. Why would Amazon treat them any differently?

      • For some reason this whole thing makes me think of Hansel and Gretel when they first came upon the witch’s gingerbread house.

        • Dan Santat says:

          I’ll be blunt. The self-publishing Amazon model is a ruse. While it’s fine to say everyone SHOULD be allowed to publish books it’s not the same to say all books DESERVE to be published, because not all books are PROFITABLE. Publishers don’t publish everyone because sometimes those books just aren’t good and it won’t make a certain profit in order for it to be considered economically viable. Amazon has the luxury of having an online store and listing everything under the sun but they do so because they can still possibly profit from something that isn’t viewed as financially viable to a traditional publisher. Amazon might only make a fraction of a cent in profit from a self-published book, but if you offer thousands of self published books, then you can make a profit, albeit a small one. It has been skewed to the impression that publishers are “elitist” and they only publish things that are “worthy”, but they are in the business of making money off of content which is why you see books by Snooki, and the like.

          As a published mid-list author it’s at a disadvantage for me to be in a market surrounded by a sea of both good, and questionable content. It’s a term known as The Long Tail. If there is an immense flooded sea of content then it is extremely difficult for any content to stand out thus effecting all of us all be it for profit or enlightenment. Amazon doesn’t care. It just wants to make money regardless if content is good or bad.

  44. Peter, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter, and for doing so in such an honest, straight-forward way that is without the sneering or judgement that some people seem to read into your post. I agree with what you’ve said. I am sorry for the people determined to take offense. We don’t all have to agree in order to be respectful of each other and I am sorry to see some people getting rude and personal. You’ve given me a lot to think about and that’s just what I will do–I will think. Then I will put my actions where I feel they are appropriate. Thank you for talking about this so well and so clearly.

  45. Jenn Bower says:

    An outstanding argument, Peter. I was ignorant about how Amazon devalued books. I applaud your bravery and eloquent appeal. IndieBound and Freading are bookmarked for future purchases or library e-reading…and now I am feeling really super guilty about order my pet’s USA made dog/cat food on Amazon’s subscribe and save.
    Thanks for being such a beautiful advocate for all that is wonderful about this industry.

  46. BobS says:

    I am baffled that everyone except Peter ignores the fact that Amazon has sold books at a loss since day one! And recently it’s come out that the company has not made a profit since day one. Somehow Amazon can sustain this when no other company could. Just doesn’t make sense as a business model or good capitalism. So comparing Amazon to the publishers is a bit of a stretch in my mind.

  47. Peril Press says:

    The boycott on Amazon getting the Colbert Bump has cost me 60% of my Kindle sales.

    I am a bit pissed that No One is talking about buying stuff on Barnes & Noble as an alternative. A stronger B&N means better competition. Win Win. They also pay me a high rate than Amazon.

    • Peter Brown says:

      I’m not against B&N at all. Frankly, I’m not against Amazon, I’m just against Amazon’s stranglehold on publishing. But to people who don’t live in the publishing world, B&N seems no better than Amazon. To make my point as clear as possible, I chose to focus on indie bookstores. But you’re right, B&N is the only bookseller with a shot at competing with Amazon, and because of that I’m definitely supportive of B&N.

      Sorry about your Kindle sales. This whole situation is bonkers. That’s what happens when one behemoth becomes so completely dominant.

  48. Susan Rankin-Pollard says:

    Very well said, Peter and your continued patience and gentlemanly responses are admirable!

    I love my indie book stores and local B&N because they give me the things that Amazon cannot and never can: Connection. Connection to the things I love and others who love them as much as I do. In person.

    Look how easily some of you are slinging mud at each other. Would you do that in person? Would you really?

    Or would we be having a more reasonable conversation about what’s going on? Maybe even how to resolve the issues.

    When you pick up a book, there are people behind that bok that poured themselves into it and only a very few are the mega-bux earners. When you say you only have so much to spend on books…we get it. We understand. We’re in the same boat. We’re actually in the dingy being pulled behind the boat that you’re in. Yes, we chose the dingy. Some of us have a life raft (day job). We all make our choices.

    What we ask is that if you have two diddlysquats to give, we hope you’ll give them somewhere other than Amazon. That extra diddlysquat means so much. Book clubs. Group story times, author and illustrator visits. Summer reading camps and whatever else your local book stores offer. CONNECTION.

    People increasingly are losing touch with who their neighbors are and what’s going on in ther communities. The more options we have for connection, the better off we are. That’s how much your extra diddlysquat means.

    If you really can’t afford it, (sometimes that diddlysquat is the difference between having the lights on and not. Trust me, some of us know.) we highly encourage you to visit your local library. They need you too, we love our libraries and librarians, and no one should have to go without the enjoyment of books.

    Please be good to each other, even if we don’t agree.

    • Peter Brown says:

      Thanks Susan! I especially love your point that we would not be slinging mud in person, but would be having a more respectful conversation. So true, and just another reason to get away from our computers and interact with each other, in places like bookstores and libraries.

  49. What a great post and very well said. And it is exactly why I don’t buy from Amazon anymore, either. I’m sure you don’t remember with all the people you meet, but we met at the SCBWI Wild, Wild Midwest conference last year. I was greatly impressed with your presentation and love what a spokesman you are for children’s literature!

  50. Robin Smith says:

    Though I did not read every contribution to this discussion, I did read most.
    Thanks for your thoughtful post.
    Two things:
    I have a friend in Toronto who has a mantra, “You get the shopping you deserve.” If you want a great local bookstore, spend your money at one. If you want a local hardware store, shop at one, even if Home Depot or Amazon is slightly cheaper. Same for florists, fabric stores, yarn stores, shoe stores…
    The joy of shopping at local places and supporting the owner and their families is enough to keep me from ordering at Amazon ever again.
    The part of your post that keeps rolling around my head is that Amazon sees books as Loss Leaders. They choose to lose money on books so they can lure you in for other things. I am done. I might have to return to the web to find out of print books, but I will not buy anything from Amazon. (And, in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the first to buy a Prime account and have spend a LOT of money at Amazon.) I am blessed with a lovely independent bookstore and I will be damned if it goes out of business on my watch because I needed to get an unsustainable discount for books.

  51. I have purchased many of your books, bit in person because I met you at a SCBWI Houston conference last year. I’m happy with my books.

    I’ve not tried to look elsewhere because I had almost every one of your books.

    On a different note, I went to Barnes and Noble to buy some E. B. Lewis books because my style of illustration is more realistic … Although I LOVEEEE your books and have them displayed in my office AND studio. There was not ONE of E. B . Lewis’ books in the store. Was told that they could order them for me. Yes, that’s possible. But it is a long drive from my house to the store. So, I looked on Amazon. Tons of books by him at OMG prices, but the shipping KILLS. I found like 15 books for maybe $30. Total with shipping was over $100. And I even made it a point to choose books that was coming from the same place, thinking that I would save on shipping. I haven’t bought them yet. However, I am considering it. I want tons of his books because I am in his visual mentor program and I just want his books around me to view and just absorb !!!!!

  52. Jessie says:

    Cheers to this post! I was alerted to it because I just saw it posted in the window of one of my favorite small book stores in Seattle. Thanks for keeping us in check and reminding us about what’s good.

  53. Frank says:

    Thanks so much, Peter, for your post. As a former bookseller myself, I’ve watched Amazon grow to its present gargantuan size and influence aassisted significantly by the federal government’s sales tax free policy. State governments and publishers are finally getting the picture that Amazon will ruthlessly exploit them wherever possible. Hopefully the lion’s share of bookbuyers will also.

  54. Stephanie G says:

    I thought this was a great post, I totally agree with you Peter. It made me sad reading some of these comments and seeing how many people didn’t see the big picture here. Of course, I also just saw the news last night where all the Amazon workers were talking about how much damage working in the Amazon warehouse had caused to their bodies. But even if that weren’t the case, I think Amazon has way too much control over book sales.

  55. It may be even worse than Amazon. The internet is destoying the middle class, or so says ” digital visionary” Jaron Lanier: http://www.salon.com/2013/05/12/jaron_lanier_the_internet_destroyed_the_middle_class/

  56. Silvia C says:

    I appreciate your point of view. I live in the US but wasn’t born here. Only my last 5 years of life (out of 36) have been spent here. So, my reading culture is very different. I am developing a new one though…
    When I first came here, I was very eager and flashed by the sale prices and coupons and completely submerged on an instant-gratification vice circle. I am evolving, I am appreciating, I am growing… At my 36 years old, I am learning the things that I like the most.
    I see your point and see the point of some of the people here. But overall, I understand what you’re saying… You love the culture around a local bookstore, the gathering, the community building aspect of it. I happen to like the same thing and for that, I thank you for writing such a gentle, thought provoking article.

  57. Zayda Love says:

    Hi Peter Brown! My name is Zayda(BabyBibliophile) and I am eleven years old. I purchased your book, The Wild Robot from an independent bookseller located in Redlands California. It is a tiny, whimsical little shop called Frugal Frigate. I asked the owner if he had any recommendations and he put your book in my hands. I read it immediately and fell in love! I agree with this blog post completely. Thank you for writing such an amazing book!

    • Peter Brown says:

      Thanks for the nice words, Zayda! And thanks for supporting indie booksellers! I love the Frugal Frigate! Stay tuned for The Wild Robot Escapes next spring!

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