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Publetariat Dispatch: Can We Stop Calling Amazon A Bully?

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!

In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author LJ Sellers rebuts the publishing establishment’s position that Amazon is the enemy.

This post, by LJ Sellers, originally appeared on the Crime Fiction Collective site and is reprinted here in its entirety with that site’s permission.

Amazon is a company. Granted, a retailer with aggressive tactics meant  to support long-term growth. But it is not an oversized kid (or childish  adult) with personality problems who deliberately picks on weaker  people for sport. And when people call Amazon a bully, they dilute the  term’s meaning and diminish the experience of human beings who have been  personally victimized, bruised, and emotionally scarred by such human  behavior.

Amazon functions much like other companies, only more successfully than  its competitors. Its tactics, as far as I know, are legal. (The tax  issues are still being debated but that’s another subject.) Some people  would argue that its tactics are not fair, but what does that mean? Does the word fair apply in business? Again, we’re not dealing with children. The concept of one for me and one for you is not how capitalism works.

Some businesses are content to coast along, partner with others, and not  worry about the future. Other businesses are more ambitious. They have  long-term goals, and they work aggressively to meet those goals, even if  it means putting competitors out of business. Barnes & Noble was  once that kind of business. It bought up competitors, closed many retail  outlets, and forced hundreds of indie bookstores to fold. People called  it a bully too. But it was just business, capitalism in action.

Now the same people who denounced B&N (small bookstore owners, small  publishers, and writers clinging to the old model) are crying foul on  Amazon and worrying that B&N, now the underdog, will not survive the  competition for customers.

I too worry a little that Amazon will dominate the publishing industry,  at least for a while, and that customer choice will begin to be limited.  But Amazon won’t get to that point by being a bully, just a savvy, fast-growing company with an eye on the long-term future.

And yes, this blog was inspired in response to the struggle between Amazon and Independent Publishers Group, which I blogged about yesterday in more detail. A struggle in which Amazon held firm on its terms and lost the right to publish all of IPG’s ebooks. I saw Amazon called a bully over and over yesterday, but I think the word is misused.

I don’t mean to imply that the human owners of indie publishers and  bookstores aren’t feeling emotional about what’s happening in the  publishing industry as a result of Amazon’s success. I’m sure they are  and rightfully so. But Amazon’s success is not a vendetta, and there’s  no point in taking it personally. Those emotions will just keep people  from making rational business decisions.

What do you think?


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