Amazing Amazon

Readers push back against the most recent Dissent of the Day:

Amazon and the ebook don’t displace independent book sellers as much as they displace the supermarket mass-market paperback.  I see the ebook as a great technology that is inevitable and Amazon may wipe out the independents.  Just like horse, carriage and stables were all part of our economy and provided jobs, the book publishing industry is a dinosaur in the world of human advancement.  We all have nostalgia for the things we loose to technology and progress, but it does not mean we are worse off in society.  Like it or not the guy who works for a independent bookstore will become the stable boy of past.

Another quotes the dissenter:

“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.” Do we? The stunning success of author Hugh Howey says we don’t and his Wool is the best new sci-fi I’ve read in ages. It’s not clear to me that publishing gatekeepers will do any better than crowd-sourcing and word-of-mouth in identifying worthy authors. But really, we’re all supposed to go talk to a “highly-literate bookseller” to tell us what to read, when we can go to Goodreads or Amazon and get the opinions of dozens, hundreds, or thousands? Please.


I agree with your dissenter that print books and bookstores offer something necessary and important in the world, and I hope they survive forever. But I have to add that, from the writers side, Amazon is offering a steady income stream to hundreds (maybe thousands) of writers who never had an income stream before.

Some breakout self-publishers are even making huge amounts of money and gathering zillions of readers. Not many of them, but beyond the stories of these big successes there is an unrecognized story of writers who are finding readers and paying their bills when they were blocked before by the gatekeepers of the large publishing houses.

I wish Apple and Google and B&N and Kobo would step up and give Amazon some real competition on this front. But don’t condemn Amazon. They have created new markets as they’ve broken old ones.


I also like to support independent bookstores when I can. So I immediately looked at the three mentioned in the dissent and searched for my new mystery novel, The Killer Wore Leather. Because like many authors these days, I do most of my own marketing, and I link to Amazon and Barnes and Noble all the time. I have also started to include Powells, the well-loved Portland, Oregon store. I would love to link to more places where people could walk in and find it!

What did I find? One bookstore didn’t have it and had no way to special order it. The other two didn’t have it, but I could order it from a warehouse, adding 1-5 business days to the shipping time.

Now, consider Amazon, which had my book listed on EVERY Amazon website all over the world, even though the book is only (right now) in English. They allowed people to pre-order it, both as a paperback and as an e-book. When the e-book went live, people who pre-ordered it got it downloaded to their Kindles automatically. People who ordered the paperback got boxes in the mail within days of the release. And Amazon offers it at a discount.

I’m sorry to see brick-and-mortar stores go. I love a good bookstore, staffed by people who read, with handwritten shelf tags, personal recommendations and a quirky selection of things not found in every airport bookstore across the country. But you know what else I like, as an author whose income depends on sales? I like it when people can find my book easily, and get it quickly, and be able to go back and recommend that book on a website millions of people use every day. If I was depending on The Strand, McNally Jackson, the Community Bookstore, or, for that matter, Rizolli to help MY job? I’d have nothing. Because Rizolli also doesn’t stock my book, or even offer it as a special order.