Okay why not?

Had this brought to my attention. Decided to cut and paste the whole shebang like normal. Unlike Normal though I haven’t read it first yet so….initial impression are what you’re gonna get.  It’s called Up The Amazon with the BS. by Ursla Le Guin
Mine in italics

Amazon and I are not at war. There are vast areas in which my peaceful indifference to what Amazon is and does can only be surpassed by Amazon’s presumably equally placid indifference to what I say and do.

off to a nice start so far. Got a sneaking suspicion it won’t stay that way but, we’ll see.

If you like to buy household goods or whatever through Amazon, that’s totally fine with me.

Does anyone beside me hear a BUT…coming?

If you think Amazon is a great place to self-publish your book, I may have a question or two in mind, but still, it’s fine with me, and none of my business anyhow. My only quarrel with Amazon is when it comes to how they market books and how they use their success in marketing to control not only bookselling, but book publication: what we write and what we read.

Ahhhh…THERE’S that BUT.  Huh?  How they market them?  Those with good reviews and sales go higher up the food chain for a certainty…but that’s true of the “traditional” industry as well. So far don’t see the problem. Heck Larry Corriea, love him or hate him does what’s called “book bombs” constantly. He puts out a new authors book on his facebook, twitter and his blog and says ‘here’ go check him/her out. Lets make this a better day for you and the author by giving you something new to read, get a deserving author some visibility and some dough’. Okay he doesn’t exactly put it that way which is why that’s not quote marks but that’s the gist of it.   Seriously how do they control what you write and what the rest of us read?   I seriously doubt ma’am that they control what YOU or anyone else writes.  As for what we the readers read? Anyone telling me I can/should only read “this” and can’t/shouldn’t read “that” is going to be told bluntly,  to go pleasure themselves with an adult toy that’s been wrapped in razor wire and soaked in ghost pepper sauce. I decide what I do and do not read. Now,  people can make suggestions for what they think I might like, but that’s entirely different from what you’re implying/insinuating..hell what you’re flat out saying!  I’ve gotten some sometimes, good, sometimes decent and sometimes flat out shitty suggestions from Amazon’s “might also like” algorithym. It’s hit and miss, but then so is randomly choosing something off a shelf in a store.

Best Seller lists have been around for quite a while. Best Seller lists are generated by obscure processes, which I consider (perhaps wrongly) to consist largely of smoke, mirrors, hokum, and the profit motive. How truly the lists of Best Sellers reflect popularity is questionable. Their questionability and their manipulability was well demonstrated during the presidential campaign of 2012, when a Republican candidate bought all the available copies of his own book in order to put it onto the New York Times Top Ten Best Seller List, where, of course, it duly appeared.

Hmmm…when I started in the retail end of the business years ago. I thought best seller lists were populated by those that either sold real well or…were populated by established authors who WERE gonna sell well. Which I think you’ll agree screws over the new guy or girl on the block, quite royally.  And without lube or permission for that matter. Which is just….rude.  After a few months at a book store I decided A. that there was just no accounting for taste. And B…how some of these people ended up “best selling authors” when they were writing unreadable dreck was unfathomable to me. However I do understand that C. Opinions, tastes etc…are in the eye of the beholder. So  to each their own
Even if I myself believe what the rest of the folks out there might be reading is only useful as kindling for my bbq pit, since I wouldn’t condescend to use that garbage to wipe my hind end with.
Oh and someone wanna provide me a link? Because I don’t remember much of the 2012 election cycle other than I knew we were gonna get Obama as President again because the GOP leaders were inept, and stupid.

If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.

It’s a sellers market. Plus with the advent of ebooks the way amazon works it…the author gets a hell of a lot more of the profit than they would through a  traditional big house. Far as I’m concerned that’s a win. Plus the price points of ebooks sold by self published or smaller houses means selling more,  if the product and word of mouth is good. Which is what the amazon rankings thing is all about.

The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.

Oh puhleeze. I LIKE that junk because it’s sweet and tasty junk and tickles my taste buds pink.  I know good and goddamn well it’s junk. However…eating it is MY choice.  But we’re straying off topic there a little bit.   So what you’re saying is that if it’s self published or published by a smaller house it’s automatically pablum? IF that’s what you’re saying then…I’m just gonna have to NOPE that statement from orbit.  As I said…SOME of the stuff that the “might like algorithym” suggests is to my mind, dreck. but I’ve found a lot more good stuff than bad that way. Also again…gold and dross is in the eye of the beholder. What you consider gold, I will probably in many cases consider dross.

I believe that reading only packaged microwavable fiction ruins the taste, destabilizes the moral blood pressure, and makes the mind obese. Fortunately, I also know that many human beings have an innate resistance to baloney and a taste for quality rooted deeper than even marketing can reach.

Okay again…let me ask are you saying self published stuff that’s sold pretty much strictly ebook via Amazon is microwave TV dinners?  ROFLOL Nope. Nope. Nope. If that’s your opinion ma’am I think it’s wrong, if I’m understanding this wrong, apologies.  However if it IS… It ain’t mine. And frankly what I think of most peoples opinions is..unkind at best.   .

If it can find its audience by luck, good reviews, or word of mouth, a very good book may become a genuine Best Seller. Witness Rebecca Skloot’s Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which for quite a while seemed to have immortal life among the Times Top Ten. And a few books work their way more slowly onto BS lists by genuine, lasting excellence — witness The Lord of the Rings, or Patrick O’Brian’s sea stories. Not products of the BS Machine, such books sell because people actually like them. Once they get into the BS Machine, they are of course treated as products of the BS Machine, that is, as commodities to exploit.

You’re starting to be repetitive you know.  So am I but here’s a thought for you.  EVERYTHING the “BS Machine” sells is gold to someone and in reverse…nothing but platitude mouthing infantile garbage to someone else. On this one I’ll leave you with. Opinions are like assholes, everyone IS one to someone.

Making a movie of a novel is a both a powerful means of getting it into the BS Machine and a side-effect of being there. Like so many side-effects, it may outdo its cause. To many people the movie is the real thing, the book can be left unread. If the book has value as a book, however, and is kept in print, I have noticed with pleasure that in time the movie tends to become the shadow, while the book regains its substance, its reality, and continues to be read.

Nah…as far as books to movies go. Most of us know the movie is just the tip of the iceberg, compared to the book.  Also a great many of us realize Hollyweird when they transmorph books to film are being far from faithful to the books, the way the characters are being portrayed, in who the actor/actress chosen is to portray those characters or  the way the story goes.  I’ll give you an example. Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October..  I LIKE the movie mind you but Baldwin is in not faithfully recreating the Jack Ryan of the book. Nor does he LOOK like Ryan. Hell for that matter neither was the woman who portrayed Jack’s wife in the brief stint in the film,  faithfully representing Cathy Ryan. Cathy is NOT a an arrogant waspish bitch!  Which was what the actress who portrayed her in that short bit of footage in Hunt, portrayed her as.  Actually as far as personality goes I thought Anne Archer’s Cathy was far more faithful to the book portrayal of Cathy. Harrison Ford you can take or leave but he still ain’t Jack. We won’t even discuss  Sum of All Fears. Ben Affleck?  blech!  

But you can’t buy and read a book that hasn’t been kept in print.

I think you’re under a misapprehension. Everything written in the last ohh…call it the last 50-60yrs years or better is still in print..somewhere. A lot of stuff that isn’t necessarily “in print’ per se has been scanned and is available as ebooks via places like the Gutenberg Project. A lot more can be found in used bookstores. I know what “in print” really means to the publishing industry ma’am.  I just see it differently.  I   It may take a while, or you may have to hire someone to hunt it for you…but if you want it…it can of a certainty be found.  Whether you can gain access to it or not depends on the work of course.

Consistent in its denial of human reality, growth capitalism thinks only in the present tense, ignores the past, and limits its future to the current quarter.

Oh geez. hold the phone and stop the press.  Current wants/needs matter do matter.  Oh and it’s people that largely ignore the past. Not necessarily institutions. Though I can think of any number of people in a number of institutions *cough* congress and the president *cough* who seem to be ignoring the past with a will; and trying to change the future for the worse.

To the BS machine, the only value of a book is its current salability. Growth of capital depends on rapid turnover, so the BS machine not only isn’t geared to allow for durability, but actually discourages it. Fading BSs must be replaced constantly by fresh ones in order to keep corporate profits up.

Nah Bestsellers can and do have longevity. Case in point ma’am, look at the way you’re older backlist stuff still sells well. Or[back to my movie example] Tom Clancy’s stuff still sells. Just because the bestseller list might be “finished” with it doesn’t mean the readers are. Far from it.  I tend to think people who read only books on the “approved” lists, the NYT Bestsellers list being a prime example of such…are simple minded, shallow fools anyway.

This fits well with a good deal of reader desire and expectation, since to many readers much of the value of a BS is that it’s new: everybody’s reading and talking about it.

Not I gungadin. Nor anyone I associate with. I’ve gotten to be such a picky bastard that by an large,  if it doesn’t come from one specific publishing house…I won’t even consider it. There are exceptions to that rule but they aren’t expansive. Hell. more than  half of what I buy in dead tree nowadays is older stuff from used bookstores. ebooks tends to be where my exceptions come from by and large. That is in part due to available space for actual physical books. The limited physical space I have available. which is what makes me such a finicky bastard. I know what I like and I’m not gonna put something on my physical shelves  that I’m only gonna read once then never touch again. It’s one of my criteria for book selection. Does the story appeal to me? If it does is it likely I’m going to read it more than once?  If the answer tot he first is yes and the answer to the second No.  I won’t buy the physical book. If the price point is good I’ll get the ebook.

Once it’s less read and talked about the BS is no longer a BS. Now it’s just a book. The machine has finished with it, and it can depend now only on its own intrinsic merit. If it has merit, reader loyalty and word of mouth can keep it selling enough to make it worth keeping in print for years, decades, even centuries.

*shrug* I never paid attention to the best seller list.  Ever. I paid attention to what I liked.

The steady annual income of such books is what publishers relied on, till about twenty years ago, on to support the risk of publishing new books by untried authors, or good books by authors who generally sold pretty well but not very well.

With the advent of ebooks…the BS list has become to the avid readers or those who know what they like a the NYT bestsellers by and large, are completely irrelevant.  Oddly the BS list was always irrelevant to me. Also to my folks who taught me to love reading. *shrug*  The BS and traditional publishing model is dying. It’s a walking corpse…the idiots in the big 5 in NYC just haven’t realized they’re already dead in the water. However their lack of understanding isn’t really my problem.  They can either change or die. On second thought considering how they’ve treated some of my favorite authors who were published by the traditional houses as well as independently…I’d just as soon they die screaming in agony.

That idea of publishing is almost gone, replaced by the Amazon model: easy salability, heavy marketing, super-competitive pricing, then trash and replace.

I think you’re operating under at least a partial misapprehension in that regard. Amazon sells anything to anyone. Publishes anyone who uses their epub set up. They honestly do not care. They are open to all in that regard. Yep super competitive pricing is one of they watch words. Trashing and replacing, not so much. Heavy marketing? yeah they do engage in that a bit. hence the book covers that pop up on my kindle screen when I shut it down or let it go into rest mode

Any publisher willing to print a book that isn’t easy to market, or to keep books that sell modestly but steadily in print, is bucking this trend. Most of them are small houses. The few big publishers that now continue functioning at all under the deliberately destructive pressure of Amazon marketing strategies are increasingly controlled by that pressure, both in what they publish and how long they keep it in print. This pressure forbids them to value quality as well as salability, or to plan in terms of long-term sales.

We readers and the market have been pulling end runs around the big publishers for years with used bookstores. The publishers are irrelevant now. One of the smaller houses is the one that I mentioned in passing without naming, up above.

And the independent booksellers that were and are the natural habitat of the non-best-selling book have been driven out of business — first by the chains that operated as part of the BS Machine, and now, decisively, by Amazon.

Sadly by and large yes. But that one lies strictly at the feet of the Big NYC based Big 5 publishers and the coming [and now dying] of the Big Box bookstore retailers like Borders[I worked for them..I was GLAD when they crashed and burned] and Barnes and Noble.  The big box book retailers killed what I considered to be the more pleasing model. The smaller format stores like B Dalton and Waldenbooks which I grew up in.  I was in both of those stores every, single, weekend growing up. Where books were concerned while my parents my limit the amount I bought in any given weekend depending on funds…they were glad to facilitate my addiction to books. In time as I grew up. I went to work in one of them The advantage of the smaller format was the employees got to know the regulars by name. All the employees and all the constant regulars and semi regulars. Got to know not just their names but their likes and favorite authors.  You can’t get that with the Borders/B&N models.  I got to be friends with some of those regulars

As a book dealer and publisher, Amazon wants no competitors, admits no responsibilities, and takes no risks.

Nope. Amazon flat out doesn’t care where competitors are concerned.  I’ll simply point out that any number of my friends are independently published, by and large in ebook ONLY because Amazon is available to everyone.  Maybe I’m readin this wrong but you seem to consider this a bad thing. I don’t, neither do my friends who are actually bringing in some money on a monthly basis because of it.

Its ideal book is a safe commodity, a commercial product written to the specifications of the current market, that will hit the BS list, get to the top, and vanish. Sell it fast, sell it cheap, dump it, sell the next thing. No book has value in itself, only as it makes profit. Quick obsolescence, disposability — the creation of trash — is an essential element of the BS machine. Amazon exploits the cycle of instant satisfaction/endless dissatisfaction. Every book purchase made from Amazon is a vote for a culture without content and without contentment.

Again you’re under a misapprehension but again you’re repeating yourself there.
As for the rest…  Whoa whoa whoa! All businesses are exploiting the quick obsolesence/instant gratification factor. That’s as much due to the dumbing down of people via the clusterfucked to a fair thee well education system. And those dumbed down people as much as anything.
Case in point vis vis the exploiting quick obselesence? The automobile industry.  They plan for shit to break quick now so they can rape your wallet one way or the other somewhere down the road. And I DO mean rape your wallet. Let me give you an example. I have 94 S10 Blazer.  It’s got over a quarter million miles on it. I’ve also got an 03 Ford Taurus with about 160 on it. For the Blazer  I can have the transmission rebuilt, in part because my mechanic and his associates are just that awesome, for between 1200-1500 bucks.    Where with the Taurus? if the tranny on the taurus ever starts to go I might as well just start saving up a down payment for a new car because it’s going to cost around 4000 dollars to replace it’s transmission.  I won’t even get into some of the engineering stupidity that the german manufacturers are engaging in in recent years  so they can guarantee you can’t fix it yourself and you HAVE to take it to a dealership or manufacturer approved repair shop to get the work done.

Well that’s the end of it. that is all. Carry on, Carry over, Cary Grant, Hari Kari…whatever floats your boat folks.

Edit and Madam LeGuin continues to jump the shark. Perpend.


Many thanks to the many thoughtful people who took the trouble to explain to me where and how my understanding of Amazon’s role in the book business is faulty.
I can’t agree with the scenario in which publishers are villains and Amazon the hero, but I’d have done better to speak of Amazon as just a super-manifestation of the growth-capitalism mentality that increasingly controls the big corporation-owned publishers, subjecting the autonomy of editors (and therefore writers) to the dictates of Accounting.

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One thought on “Okay why not?

  1. julieapascal says:

    Sorry about the editor spasm but: “look at the way you’re older backlist stuff still sells”

    Also, she seems to be saying at least two things that I find spurious… first the implication that if people are given junk food that they’ll stop wanting good food. The *implication* is that there ought to be a gatekeeper to keep the bacon wrapped donuts off the “shelf”.

    The other… what I LOVE about Amazon is that books stay available, and yet she’s insisting over and over that Amazon pushes the big thing and then throws it out, and pushes the next big thing and throws it out. My experience with brick and mortar is that they never have the book I want. If you miss it in the few weeks after publication you’re completely SOL. Amazon has everything. It’s got whatever book published last year that you just heard about. It’s got back-lists from years ago. I think that Amazon must have single handedly created the Romance Back List. And best of all, Amazon has got book #2 of that series you wanted to read. (Really… I grabbed Hard Magic and Warbound at a bookstore… did they have the middle one? Oh, heck no.)

    Like many people I *like* bookstores. But years of repeated experience walking into one and looking in vain for my favorite author or an author I just discovered or EVEN books that I knew were just released and not finding them and then being told “we can order it for you” have shown Amazon to be an amazing blessing for authors. It’s now possible for a young person to “discover” LeGuin and buy, on the spot, everything she’s ever written.

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