Sunday, February 23, 2014

February Reading



There's an excellent article in the combined Feb. 17 and 24 issues of THE NEW YORKER magazine, by George Packer, called "Cheap Words: Is Amazon's Business Model Good for Books?"

After reading Packer's article with increasing outrage and anger, I can answer that question in one word: No.  By under-pricing both print and electronic books in order to drive "traffic" through their website, and otherwise monopolizing the bookselling business, Amazon is making it exceedingly difficult for serious publishers, writers, and booksellers, and therefore serious readers, to survive.  (Of course, Amazon doesn't usually refer to readers who shop at their online site as "readers."  In the Amazonian argot, readers are referred to – I kid you not – as consumers.")

That's why it's so important for readers, writers, and booksellers everywhere to support brave, new publishing ventures like Green Writers Press, in Brattleboro, Vermont, which is committed to publishing serious fiction, non-fiction, and poetry with place-based or environmental themes.  Using recycled paper and other environmentally friendly materials, Green Writers is publishing beautifully-made books by some of Vermont's and America's best writers.  Please look for the just-published poetry anthology SO LITTLE TIME and, next month, acclaimed Vermont poet Leland Kinsey's seventh collection, WINTER READY, as examples of what GWP is doing to keep both good literature and what's left of the natural world around us alive and well, in Vermont and far beyond.

And by the way.  If you have the slightest doubt concerning Amazon's ethical bankruptcy, but don't have time just now to read the entire George Packer article, please scan what he as to say about the working conditions at Amazon's "fulfillment centers" (aka warehouses), on pp. 73-74 of the magazine.  Where is Charles Dickens when we need him?

2 comments:

dcdesign1 said...

An excellent article, Howard! And this quote, from the Packer article, particularly irked me:
"A monopoly is dangerous because it concentrates so much economic power, but in the book business the prospect of a single owner of both the means of production and the modes of distribution is especially worrisome: it would give Amazon more control over the exchange of ideas than any company in U.S. history. Even in the iPhone age, books remain central to American intellectual life, and perhaps to democracy. And so the big question is not just whether Amazon is bad for the book industry; it’s whether Amazon is bad for books."
George Packer, The New Yorker

woodbird said...

A delightful and passionate response, Howard! Also, how did I not know about this blog? My reading list just grew exponentially. -Robin