More people are buying more books than ever, and more people are making a living by writing them. Why do millionaire authors want to destroy the one company that’s made this all possible?
As an author of ten novels – legacy-published, self-published, and Amazon-published – I’m bewildered by the anti-Amazon animus among various establishment writers. James Patterson pays for full-page ads in the New York Times and Publishers Weekly, demanding that the US government intervene and do something (it’s never clear what) about Amazon. Richard Russo tries to frighten authors over Amazon’s “scorched-earth capitalism”. Scott Turow conjures images of the “nightmarish” future that Amazon, “the Darth Vader of the literary world”, has in store for us all. And “Authors Guild” president Roxana Robinson says Amazon is like “Tony Soprano” and “thuggish”.
These are strange things to say about a company that sells more books than anyone. That singlehandedly created a market for digital books, now the greatest source of the legacy publishing industry’s profitability (though of course legacy publishers are sharing little of that newfound wealth with their authors). That built the world’s first viable mass-market self-publishing platform, a platform that has enabled thousands of new authors to make a living from their writing for the first time in their lives. And that pays self-published authors something like five times as much in digital royalties as legacy publishers do.
I can think of at least several explanations for the strange phenomenon of authors – and an entity calling itself the calling itself the “Authors Guild” – railing against a company that sells so many books, that treats authors so well, and that has created so many new opportunities for writers. Basically: equating the various functions of publishing generally with the legacy industry specifically; blaming Jeff Bezos for technology; and experiencing judgment clouded by self-interest.