I’ve been ranting on Twitter since yesterday about the open letter that Scott Turow, author and lawyer, published at the Authors Guild website. I’ve been in such a lather over it that I actually went through all of the comments (and you can go through and see the spots where I have not been able to control my rage and had to comment in reply). In case you don’t know the scoop, here it is in a nutshell: the Department of Justice is considering filing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five of the Big Six publishers for allegedly colluding to fix ebook prices. Scott Turow is mad because he seems to think that pointing out the possible illegality of their actions will, by bringing the prices of ebooks back down to pre-agency-model levels, bring the publishing industry crashing to its knees and likely wipe out all of civilization as we know it.
Techdirt did a magnificent (and, unlike a blurb for a book, this truly was magnificent) takedown of Scott Turow’s ridiculous letter, and I don’t want to rehash it. I’ll wait if you want to go read it. It’s amazing.
After having read a lot of comments, articles, and such, I’m ready to weigh in with my opinion. Ready? Let’s go!
First part: Scott Turow is a fucking lawyer. HE IS A LAWYER. And he wants to casually write off potentially illegal practices because he thinks that they don’t matter in the face of, what, the ruin of a “rich literary culture”? Any shred of respect that I might ever have once had for Scott Turow has been obliterated, because I can’t respect anyone, especially a lawyer, who doesn’t respect good laws when they might interfere with his own gain.
Second part: I’m getting really flippin’ tired of being told which industries I must support and how I must support them. I love indie bookstores as much as the next person, but frankly, Amazon gives me a greater value for my money than the indie shops near me. My local indie bookstore is kind of a nightmare because, while it’s huge, it’s also really cramped and shopping there makes me claustrophobic. If I had an awesome indie bookstore where I could go shop, I’d go there when I wanted a paper book, or I’d just go and have a cup of coffee if they had a cafe. I feel the same way about Starbucks–yeah, I love supporting indies, but if they give me crappy coffee and crappy service, guess what? I’m going to Starbucks. At the end of the day, it’s my money we’re talking about, and I don’t have to spend it to keep a business afloat that isn’t considering my needs.
And what is it with nobody asking us–you know, the people who make this industry possible by being consumers–about our needs? Turow made statements like this in his letter: “Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.” Uh. (squint) It seems to me that if what people really, really want is the physical bookstore, then Amazon’s e-book discounting isn’t going to stand in the way. It seems to me that Amazon showed you something that you should probably pay attention to, and that’s the fact that people will buy a shitload of ebooks if they are priced reasonably. It seems to me that what Scott Turow should be lamenting is not Amazon’s practices, but the fact that customers aren’t doing their part to buy what he thinks they should buy. After all, all the ebook discounts in the world wouldn’t turn the tide if people didn’t want them, amirite Scott Turow?
It also seems to me that Amazon probably doesn’t give a rip if physical bookstores do well as long as Amazon also does well. They’re not trying to destroy bookselling, Scott Turow. You’re being overdramatic. Did you leave your personality somewhere and pick up a teenager’s by mistake?
Here’s a wake-up call for people like Scott Turow: there will always be a book market because there will always be readers. The people who determine what that market looks like are the people who buy books (us) not the people who produce books (you); the entire idea of producing something commercially is to produce things that people want and will buy, not to force people to deal with your bullshit because you’re the only game in town. You can see how well this has worked out now that big publishers have a lot of viable competition.
I’ve decided two things in the wake of all of this. The first is that I will never read Scott Turow–which isn’t really significant, because I wouldn’t have read him anyway. The second is that I will no longer support HarperCollins, Penguin, MacMillan, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster until these companies get their shit together–and I’m throwing in Random House for good measure, even though they’re not listed in the lawsuit, just because I don’t like some of their other actions regarding ebooks. (Correct me in the comments if they’ve shown signs of heads removed from asses.) When the Big Six stops being shady and starts focusing on fulfilling customer needs rather than clinging to their dinosaur of a publishing model, I will return with open arms and my wallet. Until then, I’m on a purchasing and reviewing strike. I will continue to review indie books and authors, and my comrades can review whatever they’d like, but I personally am opting out.
Am I overreacting? Are you fed up, too? Read any good indie books lately? Drop it in the comments!