I’d like to take a step back from the fray and acknowledge that this battle is nothing new. As technology brings production and distribution into the hands of artists, it sends well-established companies into a panic. This revolution began decades ago with the music and film industries, but it has only just reached the literary landscape.
Readers and writers, listen close: When large companies monopolize art, they create polished masterpieces from tried-and-true formulas. When individuals create art on their own accord, it is more likely to be reckless and creative. Indie art often flops, but when it soars it redefines the norm. The film industry saw it change the face of Hollywood in the 1960’s. The music industry labeled it in the 1980’s during the heyday of Nirvana and The Smiths. In short, ‘indie’ isn’t a genre- it’s a movement. And with the dawn of e-publishing, indie books are taking over the literary industry by force.
I won’t argue over letters, public statements and political stunts. All I know is that Amazon is leading this revolution. Amazon has fought for both readers and writers ever since the debacle over ebook prices in 2010. From every turn, Amazon has stood up for authors – all authors, not just select authors – and given the majority of us a better deal and a better outlet than any of the Big Five companies ever did.
What we need to remember is that Amazon and Hachette are both large companies, and they are both in it for the business. This battle is good, because it means they will keep each other in check. Amazon needed to have some whistle-blowers look at its fulfillment centers. Hachette, and all the Big Five publishing companies, need to loosen their stranglehold on the literary market, because at this point they are only strangling themselves, their readers, and (most of) the authors they represent.
Who’s going to come out on top? Authors. Because we are both the product and the consumer. We are the ones fighting, and being fought for. Unfortunately, some authors (mainly debut and midlist Hachette authors) will get caught in the crossfires of this revolution. But thanks to ebook distributors like Amazon, the availability of self-publishing, and the upsurge in indie publishing, those wounded warriors will have all the resources they’ll need to get back on their feet.
Change is good, friends, but it’s also scary. Digital publication and distribution has shut down bookstore chains across the country, and now it’s threatening to topple the traditional publishing industry. In the shadows of these fallen giants, indie authors, indie bookstores, and indie publishers are finding cracks, growing roots, and sprouting leaves. Right now, Amazon is providing the soil for new growth, and that is a good thing.
If you’d like to join the fight for independent authors, join the 7,000+ writers and readers who have signed Hugh Howey’s petition.
Or, if you’re still convinced that Hachette’s the good guy, you can join the 300+ authors who have signed Douglas Preston's petition.
Amy R. Biddle, co-founder and editor at Underground Book Reviews, was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has since made a living on the great blue sea. Find out more at www.amyrbiddle.com or check out her book, The Atheist's Prayer.