Talk of the Conference: Amazon

Is it the longest river in the world? Undoubtedly. Is it a tall, strong woman? Well according to Greek mythology, yes.  Is it a monster ready to eat a publisher’s lunch? Some fear so.  Amazon seems to be the future, and it has everyone in the book industry talking.

Colorado Gold was no exception.  From sessions like “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Selling Your Book on Amazon” to chatter in the famous hospitality suite, to causing questions in the Published Author’s Liaison meeting, Amazon’s “take over” of the publishing industry has caused joy, fear, excitement and concern.  So what’s happening and what’s the big deal?

Amazon, a corporation really still in its infancy (it was started in 1994 with its founder, Jeff Brazos, still at the helm) has grown from the proverbial, couple of computers and some books in a garage to a multinational behemoth that supplies all sorts of retail products directly to the public.  Lots of middle men (and the jobs that go with them) are cut out, in order to provide the consumer a lower priced product.

Some say this is terrific.  In publishing, authors can produce their own books and sell directly to readers without all the clutter and challenges of agents and publishers.  Now, instead of New York telling everyone what to buy in terms of reading, with a few small publishing houses helping newbies along the professional path, everyone can launch a writing career in e-publishing just by going to Amazon and uploading their latest “book.”

Those of us who have gone the traditional route, now risk looking and acting like “dinosaurs” as someone at the conference said.  Our big accomplishment of writing something acceptable enough to get a payment for, is kind of looking like a tortoise route to reaching readers.  More and more people are writing their books, finding a cover artist, and running to the internet. Voila!

But this leads to questions. Big questions.  If Amazon takes over publishing, with little to no competition for an artist’s work, will the pay rates change in favor of the big guy and leave those with the stories out in the cold financially?  When you reduce the judge of quality writing from numerous to one, do you risk cutting off new expression and dissenting voices? Will the reading public–already a small percentage of adults in the U.S.–be so turned off by the amount of garbage to sort through before finding a good read, that they stop reading all together?  What will this lack of literacy do to our ability to form political, moral, and intellectual decisions as a society?

All good questions. But consider that each generation before us has been fearful, wary and suspicious of the new horizons discovered.  If we debated whether it was right for Columbus to sail west, the world may still be “flat.”

Change is as uncomfortable as it is inevitable.  Our job is not to fear it, but to find ways to embrace it and make it our own. Or risk becoming dinosaurs.

So what do you think?  Do you care whether a book you buy has editing and publishing credentials, or are you willing to risk buying a dozen “bad” books at $1.99 in the hopes of finding your one good read?