An op-ed piece in the New York Times on May 7th, written by David Leonhardt, bemoaned the current state of Barnes and Noble booksellers. Leonhardt gave the usual recitation of the state of affairs in the book industry; once mighty and lambasted for driving independent bookstores out of business, Barnes and Noble is now the prey, the hunted by the mighty lion Amazon. B&N is closing stores, scaling back, finding it hard to survive. This, of course, is true. As is Leonhardt’s cogent discussion of the dangers of corporate behemoths like Amazon, Google, Apple and their ilk dominating all forms of commerce from eBooks to search engines to smartphones.
“What struck me about the article,” says Wid Bastian, President of Genius Media, Inc. “was not the statement of the obvious, but rather the misleading statements Leonhardt made about the book industry.”
Bastian takes issue with certain assertions of facts made by Leonhardt.
“Amazon has been happy to lose money on books to build a loyal customer base, to which it can then sell everything else. True to the extent that Amazon wants to sell everything to everyone, but it is not true that Amazon is using books as a ‘loss leader’,” Bastian asserts. “Amazon only ‘prices’ a relatively small amount of the books on its platform. Most book prices are set by publishers and authors. If a reader chooses not to pay the overhead associated with a brick and mortar store, that’s the customer’s choice. Amazon sets its fees only, not the price of the book… the artificially low prices have created a raft of problems. Fewer books are commercially viable. Publishers are focusing on big-name writers. The number of professional authors has declined.”
“There have never been more books that are ‘commercially viable’ than there are today,” Bastian claims. “This is traditional publisher spin and it is simply not true. The number of professional authors has soared in recent years and will only get larger. What is true is that New York publishing houses are a dying breed. No one wants to be replaced by a new system, to be usurped by new technology and innovation. The traditional publishing business model is becoming less viable every day.”
The book industry is not only alive and well, it’s thriving like never before, Genius Media, Inc. asserts. The number of Indie authors making a living through their work grows year over year. Authors do not need traditional publishers anymore – they can generate their own publicity, run their own
marketing campaigns and do all the rest of the things traditional publishers used to do for the select few.
“The Indie publishing business is highly competitive,” Wid Bastian says. “It is tough to get noticed and difficult to become commercially successful. Promotion and marketing require a substantial investment of funds and energy. That said, more writers now are making a good living from writing fiction and non-fiction than ever before.”
Will Barnes and Noble survive? Maybe, maybe not. What is certain is that the book industry, from the perspective of Indie authors at least, has never been healthier. From a consumer’s point of view, readers can access more books for less money and with maximum convenience.
Some traditional publishers believe that they were divinely destined to be the gatekeepers of the book world for all time and eternity.
While Amazon’s size and arrogance create its own problems that must be dealt with, the benefits far outweigh the costs. The public now increasingly chooses which books to read and which books to ignore. The world is a better place when our literary options are chosen through vigorous competition in the marketplace rather than by an elite group of New York publishers and editors who feel they know what’s best for us, what we “should” be reading.
Hollywood, are you paying attention? The next phase of this media revolution is headed your way. Your days of dictating what video and film content is worthy are numbered too.