Osmar Schindler’s “David und Goliath” (Wikipedia)
There has been a lot of buzz spilled over the purported “David vs. Goliath” battle between publisher Hachette and sales amazon Amazon, as well as how Amazon’s sales tactics affect not only the book publishing industry but readers as well. So this week we explain it in the appropriate biblical terms by presenting:
The Book of Bezos of Amazon
In the beginning, there were Books. And those who thirsted for knowledge, or even a light summer read, thought that they were Good.
And there was much turning of pages in the land, and folding down of little corners to keep their places; the people did enjoy their Books, even unto the underlining of racy passages in pencil when no one was looking.
And the two tribes known as the Authors and the Publishers prospered, and there was happiness in the land.
II. The Magician, Bezos of Amazon, Cometh Upon the Scene
It came to pass that the Magician, Bezos of Amazon, did come upon the world, and he began to supply the people with a goodly number of Books through a form of witchcraft called Mail Order.
The people became entranced by the speed at which Bezos of Amazon did deliver the Books forthwith; and the people rejoiced in the pricing structure, which saved them shekels hand over fist when compared with brick-and-mortar Book merchants.
But, lo, even as the people cheered the delivery speed and the One-Click Ordering that Bezos of Amazon had conjured, they cried out for more.
The people of the land did beat their chests, and gnash their teeth, and wail, “If only we had a way to have a Book in our hands the very second it occurs to us that we want to read it.”
Bezos of Amazon heard the cries of the people and he did roll his eyes and say, “Really? Overnight delivery isn’t fast enough for you? M’k.”
So the Magician brought forth the talisman known as the Kindle and, more importantly, the eBook, which did live inside the Kindle.
And the people, who were bewitched by the unlimited number of eBooks that they could now read at once, rejoiced further that they no longer had to sacrifice the lamb or the stoat to be able to afford the newest James Patterson page-turner in hardcover.
And an evil plan did hatch in Bezos’ mind.
III. Whereupon Bezos of Amazon Changeth the Rules
When he saw that the people were bewitched, thus spake Bezos: “Lo, thy cries have been heard, and the delivery of eBooks to your Kindles shall be immediate and unending. But there is a price to pay for such luxury.”
“Here it cometh,” said the tribe known as the Authors. “We’re about to get screwed …”
“When thou ordereth an eBook for thy Kindle,” continued Bezos, pretty much ignoring what anyone said, “thou shalt have no other merchant before me…”
(Paramount Pictures. Sort of.)
“Wait, isn’t that a commandment?” inquired the people.
“Possibly. Also, I get to decide how much you pay for those eBooks.”
And Bezos of Amazon went forth and committed a grave sin against the Authors and the Publishers: He did lower the price of an eBook below the point at which they could reasonably hope to make a living wage or, yea, even a profit.
And the Authors and the Publishers did have a big problem with that.
“Now, wait just a second there,” spluttereth the Authors. “We cannot survive on those prices.” And many of those Authors were driven out from the land and forced to join other tribes known as Waitstaff or, if they were more fortunate, Insurance Underwriters.
(QSR magazine/Journalistic, Inc.)
“Hold thy horses,” cried the Publishers. “Dost thou have any idea what that doeth to our bottom line?” And the houses of the Publishers grew empty as they were forced to lay off those who had served their masters well: They sent away those who had harvested the extraneous punctuation marks, and they sent away those who had polished all manner of manuscripts with unctions and with oils.
But Bezos of Amazon cared not, because the people of the land were happy to consume their cheap eBooks, much as the sheep graze in the fields.
For, lo, the people did continue to enjoy the steeply discounted manna; they bought his eBooks and his household furniture and his video games. They purchased in great amounts his clothing and his tasty comestibles and his sporting goods.
And the Magician of Amazon grew richer and did eventually purchase the Washington Post for his own pleasure, but that’s another parable altogether.
IV. Bezos the Giant Becomes Even More Heinous
One day, in the Garden of the Internet, it came to light that Bezos of Amazon had charged the servants of his house with smiting the tribe of the Publishers as if the servants were cheetahs coming upon sickly gazelles, for the Publishers and their whining were troublesome to the Magician of Amazon.
But the Authors and the Publishers did continue to do business with Bezos, who by then had increased in riches and in size by many cubits to become a Giant.
And the scribes brought forth stories to the people of how Bezos the Giant had grown arrogant, that he had cast a magic spell called the Price Check app to steal sales from brick-and-mortar Bookstores.
(James Duncan Davidson/Flickr)
Yet even then, which perplexed the scribes — because how heinous did Bezos of Amazon have to be before the people banished him? — the Authors and the Publishers did continue to work with Bezos, who cared not about them, no, nor even the independent retailers.
For it was known throughout the land that to withhold their Books from Bezos until he played nicely would have caused further starvation and pestilence among the tribes.
V. Hachette the Publisher
And it came time for the Publisher known as Hachette to renegotiate its contract with Bezos the Giant. But Hachette refused to bendeth over for Bezos of Amazon, and the Giant did take great offense.
Whereupon Bezos furiously cast his plagues upon the house of Hachette: The preorder buttons on Hachette titles did fly off the Amazon pages; the delivery of the Hachette Books was slowed like unto a snail’s pace; banners meant to bewitch the people into buying other Books did suddenly appear to cover up the Hachette titles; and their prices did mysteriously swell to great proportions.
But Hachette stood strong against the Giant, and the other Publishers began to pay attention. The smaller Publishers took a meeting and said, “Yea, verily, we are all Hachette now. We will carry Hachette the Publisher upon our shoulders and sell his titles for him, for he has been either brave enough or stupid enough, it is hard to tell which, to go up against the all-powerful Bezos the Giant.”
And there was cheering in the land by the Authors and the Publishers, for even a nice guy like John Green was tired of feeling bullied. Verily, even Queen Rowling, who ruled the tribe of Hogwarts and made her tribe richer under the name of Robert Galbraith, journeyed to the temple of Twitter and spoke thusly about how the people could procure her Books anywhere but from Bezos of Amazon:
Yet the war continueth even now, yea, even as the people start to realize that Bezos the Giant is not the only merchant in the land.
Verily, they do have other Book conjurers in their sights, like Oyster the Unlimited, or PaperBackSwap the Trader. Those who are of the iPad tribe do worship at the alter of the iBooks app, and the Nook tribe do worship their Barnes & Noble Books.
And the tribe of the Authors and the Publishers — what’s left of them — would speaketh one thing directly to the people of the land:
Imagine a world where the only Books you get to read and the only literary voices you get to hear are from those who are willing to bow their heads to Bezos the Giant.