If Not Readers…?

“For book publishers, the relevant market isn’t readers (direct sales are few), but booksellers, and Amazon has firm control of bookselling’s online future as it works to undermine bookselling’s remaining brick-and-mortar infrastructure.”

The Authors Guild

There’s a lot wrong with this heavily biased and surprisingly myopic look at the supposed “backstory” of the publishing industry, but perhaps the most galling line in the whole thing is this statement: “the relevant market isn’t readers.”

Amazon has always understood that readers are the most relevant market and that’s why they’re in the position of power they’re currently enjoying. Do they wield their big stick aggressively? Definitely. And so did B&N and Borders before them, and presumably whomever the boogeyman was prior to them were guilty of the same thing.

One could argue (and many of the comments to the article do) that publishers themselves have been similarly as guilty in their dealings with authors.

Bashing Amazon isn’t a business strategy, and it’s worth noting that for all the cries of antitrust and monopoly, that it’s the publishers who adopted the agency model who are currently under investigation. I usually reject the “publishers are ostriches” argument, but The Authors Guild’s approach to the issues of the day recently make it difficult to argue otherwise.

As long as publishers refuse to recognize readers as their most relevant market, they will continue to be subject to the whims of the intermediaries they cede that market to, and as such, have no room to complain.

PS: I can picture The Authors Guild making a similar statement five years ago: “For book publishers, the relevant market isn’t electronic (sales are few), but print.”

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