In the modern era of publishing, Amazon is the king. It has created a monopoly in the industry; a well oiled machine that is confident in itself, even as it opposes one of the biggest publishers by market share, Hatchette. Hatchette is just one of many publishers out there struggling to hold the line against the massive Amazon front, and their previous offensive against the media giant resulted in a federal antitrust suit.
The conflict reached a new height recently, with Amazon barring Hachette titles from being purchased this summer and fall. Hatchette’s senior vice president released a statement concerning the two opposing polarities the day after the bar.
“We are determined to protect the value of our authors’ books and our own work in editing, distributing and marketing them. We hope this difficult situation will not last a long time, but we are sparing no effort and exploring all options.”
Independent booksellers are pouncing at the opportunity, declaring that they will supply readers with Hachette books, and Books-a-Million will be selling the titles at a significant discount.
While Hachette is striving to maintain the traditional methods of publishing, their company dates back to 1837, Amazon has reshaped the entire landscape of the industry by redefining the relationship between readers and their books. This raises the question about traditional publishing houses lifespan, so the case between the two companies has all eyes watching.
In a world when editors sharpened prose, publishers took major cuts of proceeds from authors, and marketing was done by the represented house with titles being presented instead of simply distributed like any other consumer good, will the traditional methods be enough to compete?
The President of German Publishers and Books Association, Alaxander Skipis, says: “Of course it is very comfortable for customers to be able to order over the Internet, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. But with such an online structure as pursued by Amazon, a book market is being destroyed that has been nurtured over decades and centuries.”
In contrast, Clay Shirky says that “Publishing is not evolving. Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button. There’s a button that says “publish,” and when you press it, it’s done.”
Self publishing isn’t quite as easy as that, however. Amazon doesn’t market your book for you, like traditional publishing house would. The author has to do that themselves. They depend on the kindness of strangers, and those strangers are becoming antsy, even angry, at Amazons callous efforts to strangle the big publishing houses out of their sales.
The result of this conflict will either make or break Hachette, and one can only wonder about the future of publishing as writers are diving into unknown seas all by themselves to avoid the dreaded slush pile. Will major publishers adopt similar methods of distributing their titles like Amazon as a result? Will they adapt, publish at the press of a button, and market for authors who desperately want their stories to see the light of day?
Time will tell.