One of the great things that I've watched develop over the last ten years or so has been the connection of amazing new technologies which have made it possible for people to organize in ways they never could before.
It made it possible to organize Gulf War veterans in the mid-nineties, and Iraq War veterans since 2003. It's made entire small creative industries possible, particularly in the arts. That, connected with digital printing, has made it economically viable for small, creative and independent presses to publish books that would never have made it through the corporate gatekeepers of the huge conglomerates in New York. Musicians have made entire careers boosted on the internet, and small-time authors who podcasted their books have become mega-bestsellers. In other words, regular folks like you and me have the opportunity to find and build an audience in ways never before possible! Digital printing, the Internet, social networking -- things few of us even imagined as little as twenty years ago.
Unfortunately, these trends seem to be threatening to some of the market leaders. This week we learned that Amazon.com, the 800 pound gorilla of the online sales world, is threatening hundreds of small, family owned independent presses in a way which may or may not be illegal, but is certainly just plain wrong. The long and short of it: if you want to be sold on Amazon.com (and stay in business), you have to give them higher discounts than any other retailer gets, plus you have to use their printer to print the book in the first place. The irony, of course, is that Amazon was one of key factors that has made this renaissance of micro-publishers possible.
Why is this a big deal? Because it's a huge, incredibly profitable corporation directly threatening the livelihood of hundreds of small businesses. Play ball our way, or we'll put you into bankruptcy.
Sad, isn't it? You can check out the ugly details on my blog (along with links to coverage in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal). But that's not why I'm writing. I'm writing to ask you: do you care about the ability of independent artists and writers to reach their audience without having to pay a 90% premium to a huge corporation? If so, there's a couple simple things you can do to help, that will only take about five seconds of your time.
Help Me Spread the Word About This
1. Visit my blog entry about the issue and click on the "Digg It" link at the top of the page. Just a couple hundred diggs from you will drive it to the top on Digg, where the issue will be exposed to hundreds of thousands of visitors.
2. Forward this on to your friends, and let them know they can help too.
3. Send an email to Amazon's customer support. You can do so through their online webform at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/general-questions.html. They'll almost certainly email you back some inane response that has nothing to do with the issue you are writing about (kind of like writing Congress, I know), but a landslide of bad customer responses over this can make a difference.
4. Finally, and most importantly: if you keep a blog, post something about this issue. Companies are pretty sensitive to bad online press these days, and a lot of negative blog entries about this could really put some pressure on them to reverse themselves. After all -- one of the great things that distinguishes Amazon in the first place is the availability of books you just can't find at a big-box retailer. What happens to that when small, unique publishers are put out of business?
Thanks for listening, and best regards! You can always post comments about the issue here: