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Notes from the Labyrinth
Unobtainium and Dragons' Bones
Don't talk back, just drive the car 
4th-Feb-2010 02:13 pm
porpentine: basic
It feels weird to be saying this about the CEO of a corporation, but John Sargent is proving himself this week to be a class act. Here's his update on the Amazon fiasco.

Notice that Sargent is talking to authors and illustrators and about authors and illustrators, as well as about consumers. Compare Amazon's (thus-far) only public statement here, wherein the ONLY AUTHORS MENTIONED are self-published authors (who, not coincidentally, can self-publish through Amazon). Otherwise, from Amazon's letter, you would imagine that Macmillan as a corporate entity somehow produced all its content itself on that same corporate level. Clearly, this is why e-books should cost so much less: the publisher lays them like golden eggs! N.b., if you want an idea of how much work goes into that there egg, jaylake has an excellent post on the work done by all the people who are even more invisible than writers in this new cosmology of publishing. The only people in Amazon's letter are the consumers.

Amazon's letter is a clumsy and puerile piece of writing, but the response to it indicates that the letter accurately pushed a number of buttons for its intended audience: that audience's entitlement to cheap e-books, the a priori evil of the big corporation (Macmillan, in this case, not Amazon), the sense (whether justified or not) of being an underdog, the idea--much more implicit than stated, but still clearly there to be exploited--that the only "real" authors are self-published authors and the rest of us are just corporate apparatchik monkeys pounding on our typewriters. (Hey, another reason e-books should cost less! Corporate apparatchik monkeys can be paid in bananas! And can sleep in their cubicles! And if one gets sick, why worry about health-care? Just euthanize the fucker. You can always find more monkeys.)

Obviously, I'm more than a little bitter about the apparent perception of (non-self-published) authors as parasites. I'm not the only one. And this is why my favorite line in Mr. Sargent's letter is "we will now have a business model that will ensure our intellectual property will be available digitally through many channels, at a price that is both fair to the consumer and that allows those who create and publish it to be fairly compensated."

It is true that many, if not necessarily all, people who work in publishing, whether as authors, editors, book designers, or anything else, have chosen their profession because they love books and they love working with books. But this is a bonus--and it's another way in which I am lucky. It does not make the work we do less important--or less work. And it is not a replacement for being paid.

Bananas are not a balanced or sustainable diet.
4th-Feb-2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
I'd be happier, though, if through all his reassurances he actually told us something about where the negotiations ended up.
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