Swamp Rabbit and I were eating collard greens — the new kale! — and reading about Amazon’s all-you-can-eat strategy for handling books:
…For much of the last year, mainstream novelists were furious that Amazon was discouraging the sale of some titles in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette over e-books.
Now self-published writers, who owe much of their audience to the retailer’s publishing platform, are unhappy.
One problem is too much competition. But a new complaint is about Kindle Unlimited, a new Amazon subscription service that offers access to 700,000 books — both self-published and traditionally published — for $9.99 a month.
It may bring in readers, but the writers say they earn less…
“You may as well put that book you wrote on Amazon,” the rabbit said. “None of them agents gonna waste time lookin’ at it.”
“Can’t you read, rabbit? It’s becoming harder every month for novelists who publish on Amazon to get paid. Customers can rent e-books by the ton instead of buying them one at a time. Why should I bother with Amazon? I might as well give my latest novel away.”
“Might as well. How much money you gonna make waitin’ for one of them real publishers to sign you up? A big fat zero, is all.”
I started shouting about the sorry state of the publishing industry and the plight of artists who are being not only ripped off but impoverished by the sharks who control the increasingly sophisticated digital systems that “stream” books, music, movies, etc., to consumers. It’s beyond commodification. It’s as if works of art — I used the term loosely — are nothing more than collard greens, delivered by the truckload. Put a few leaves in your Amazon crock-pot and throw the rest out.
The rabbit gobbled a big bunch of collards and washed them down with a snoot full of Wild Turkey. “Art ain’t what it used to be, Odd Man,” he said. ‘You gotta roll with the times.”
He pointed to the key paragraph in the article:
Amazon, though, may be willing to forgo some income in the short term to create a service that draws readers in and encourages them to buy other items. The books, in that sense, are loss leaders, although the writers take the loss, not Amazon.
I reread the passage and asked the rabbit if he thought Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was the devil, or merely the devil’s instrument.
He spit in the swamp and said, “Don’t matter who the devil is. The question is, who are you? How you gonna survive if you don’t adapt?”
I crawled into my shack and slammed the door behind me. Once again, the pesky rodent’s words had rendered me speechless.