There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled in the Amazon vs Hachette et al spat. Twitter is in full swing. Hugh Howey has come out swinging in several blog posts analyzing Amazon’s position, Hachette’s position, and arguing with the authors that support Hachette. It’s an interesting case of industry disruption and efforts by traditional publishing to hold on to their market power.
And that’s what the battle is about. It’s about power. It’s about money too, because money is power in most situations, but really Hachette is drawing a line in the sand and asserting their power as a big publisher, as the gateway to popular authors.
Except that they aren’t a gateway anymore. In fact, you could say that they are an industry dinosaur. But that’s neither here nor there.
People are expressing surprise that the Author’s Guild and several big name authors are behind Hachette, but it makes perfect sense to me when the situation is viewed through the lens of power. Hachette is, essentially, a colonizing power. They control a territory filled with people (authors) and resources (books and potential books). Some authors have, by virtue of their access to resources, achieved a measure of their own power, and their power is intimately tied to and ultimately derived from Hachette itself. The elites of the conquered serve their conquerors because that’s where their own self-interests lie.
Big name Hachette authors have made a lot of money with Hachette. They’ve become famous with them. And, because money has voice and those authors epitomize what most authors want to be, official writer’s associations have similar motivations. Keep the money train coming.
The world will be dealing with colonial-engineered conflicts for a long time, and authors will be fighting themselves for a while now still. But the writing is on the wall. Amazon’s (admittedly self-interested) market analysis shows that lower e-book prices would benefit everyone. And markets have shown again and again that access and sharing are more powerful paths to profit than content lockdown through DRM. And the price-gouging of Hachette is not so different. $14.99 ebooks are over-priced. Even $9.99 is over-priced to me. If I’m paying $7.99 for a paper book, you had better bet I’m not going to spend more than $5 for a digital version, and I’ll be pissed that I’m paying that much.
Point is, as in all things full of talking heads, the true path to understanding is in following the money. Popular traditional authors support Hachette. Self-published and ‘indie’ authors support Amazon. C’est la vie.
On a slightly related note–I think there is a lot of potential for stories set around a protagonist that is an economist. Not the stuffy ideology-ridden economists that make a mockery of the ‘science’, but more like a shock-troop economist that is air-dropped into tense situations and resolves them through application of his understanding of the nature of human choice.
Sort of like Hari Seldon, except maybe slightly more bumbling and comical.