Publishers Weekly has a well-written, well-reasoned article on the Amazon-Hachette dispute over at their website. We’re happy to see that the industry itself (for surely Publishers Weekly can be considered part of the publishing industry) is starting to reign in its knee-jerk reaction to Hachette’s war on Amazon and think about the issue rationally:
Mainstream media accounts of the dispute often make dire predictions not just for bookselling, but for the future of literature itself, if Amazon is able to secure better terms from a supplier. Bestselling author James Patterson raised the specter of the end of literature in an Amazon-ascendant marketplace, in his remarks at the recent BookExpo America. He received a standing ovation. In a recent segment on public radio, Joe Nocera, a highly regarded business journalist commenting on the dispute, seemed convinced that better terms for Amazon meant he wouldn’t be able to get big advances—or even competent editing—for his own books in the future. How’s that for disinterested journalism? In these scenarios, if Amazon gets better terms from Hachette, book publishing, Western civilization, and literature—not to mention advances, book tours, and access to professional editors—are all on the line. The truth of the matter is bit more mundane. National retailers and publishing conglomerates face off over retail terms and pricing on a regular basis.
“It’s gotten a little nutty,” said Porter Anderson, a journalist, publishing industry pundit, and director of the AuthorHub at this year’s BEA, when asked for his reaction to the anti-Amazon pile-on. “Hachette will do just fine even if Amazon gets better terms. It’s still a multinational publishing conglomerate; there will still be author advances, art and publishing will continue.” Anderson also said that he was perplexed over the ever-changing factions in the publishing retail wars, noting “at one time B&N was the enemy. They were the ones held responsible for closing bookstores. And why didn’t anyone get upset about what was happening to S&S authors last year?”
“The industry is a hysterical bunch. They like a crisis even if it’s a generated, fabricated crisis. There’s always going to contractual disputes,” Anderson said. “We now have the biggest retail channel for books in our history. Publishers sell more because Amazon exists to sell their books all around the world in a flash. Amazon made e-reading come alive.”
As you can see from the infographic, Hachette’s bestsellers are actually doing better this year than they did at this same time last year, before the dispute with Amazon began. Big Publishing is doing just fine, folks, as is James Patterson. Was there ever really any (rational) doubt?