Dissent Of The Day

Mar 12 2013 @ 1:30pm

A reader writes:

As the fine arts book buyer and assistant manager for an independent bookstore [seen above] in your newly-adopted city, I am disheartened to learn that you’re continuing to make affiliate revenue from Amazon, a corporation hell-bent on destroying print culture and, along with it, my job. From their loss-leading book pricing to their vile price-check app, Amazon has made itself the scourge of small booksellers everywhere.

You may not have much love for the publishing industry, but, like it or not, we need traditional book publishers to sift through endless submissions, just as we need highly-literate booksellers to promote exceptional new works to the public. I’m just not convinced digital self-publishing on its own can sustain literary fiction and scholarly nonfiction written by little-known authors. I have enormous respect for publishers like Farrar, Strauss and Giroux and Twelve Books that continue to release amazing new books each year. (Twelve Books published Hitchen’s superb memoir, incidentally.) I’m at a loss to understand how such “dead-tree” publishers have incurred your wrath.

I don’t deny e-books have their benefits, but they also have many drawbacks.

The books you buy for your Kindle aren’t covered under the first sale doctrine. You don’t technically own them and you certainly can’t resell them. E-books are not collectable, cannot truly be signed by authors, and, unlike printed books, make for lousy gifts. And forget about finding most illustrated books on art, photography, design, or architecture on you Kindle. And that goes for graphic novels, atlases, and children’s books, too.

Besides illustrated content, printed books themselves can be beautiful objects. Do we really want to entirely replace the tactile qualities of paper and cloth, along with their pleasing cover design, with pixels on a screen? More importantly, do we want to live in a world without bookshops?

In the past, you’ve linked to printed books when the e-book version is unavailable. Noel Malcolm’s edition of Hobbes’s Leviathan isn’t available on Kindle, for instance. You may not have noticed that Amazon user reviews for all previous editions of Leviathan appear on the same page, as if they were indistinguishable. This is just one of many indications of how Amazon sees selling books as no different than selling baby formula or toaster ovens.

It’s wonderful that you provide healthcare for your interns, but I had hoped the revenue from subscriptions would have covered this. Maybe I’m overstepping my bounds, but I’d love to see you link to indie bookstores like Strand, McNally Jackson, or Community Bookstore in the future. Not only would you be helping local businesses in your city, you’d also be taking the right (and, dare I say, conservative) stand.