Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Publishers, DOJ, Agency Pricing, and Maturity

Among the many jobs I've held in my long and weary life, I have been a Playground Supervisor. We were also called Lunch Ladies, though we didn't serve lunch -- we just made sure they cleaned up their trash and went outside. The ratio of kids to us was 100 to 1, but only if all the lunch ladies showed up for work. If one or two didn't, the ratio could get a lot steeper.

It was a fun job.

One of the things that happened nearly every single day on the playground: a pair of first graders would come running up; one crying, one looking flustered and upset.

Crying Kid: He pushed me down!
Flustered Kid: I did not! It was an accident.
Crying Kid: It wasn't an accident because it hurt!
Flustered Kid: It does not hurt, because it was an accident!

With first graders, this is what passes for logic: "whatever I feel is the final arbiter of reality." Somewhere around second grade they figured out that their feelings aren't the only thing in the universe. Some of them actually figure out that they aren't even the center of the universe.

I think the entire publishing industry -- including a lot of writers -- skipped second grade.

That's really all I've got to say about all of this hullabaloo about the Department of Justice investigating the Agency Pricing issue, and especially the irrational reaction of the Authors Guild.

(Here are a couple of good posts by people who have more to say: Joe Konrath's discussion with Barry Eisler, and James Scott Bell's advice to authors on the matter.)

Okay, maybe I'll add one more thing: the publishing industry AND the bookselling industry, even combined, are not "keeping Amazon in check." Their success or failure has nothing to do whatsoever with Amazon's success, or power, or ability to act like a monopoly. Nothing.

Amazon's natural rival (or as close to it as there is) is Google, and the internet itself.

Amazon is not the enemy of publishing. The publishing establishment is the enemy of publishing.

See you in the funny papers.

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