A lot of people have spoken out about Amazon as the evil empire of the publishing world, but few as sharply and succinctly as Ursula K. Le Guin in a post at Book View Café:
If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.
The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS [Best Seller] Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.
I believe that reading only packaged microwavable fiction ruins the taste, destabilizes the moral blood pressure, and makes the mind obese. Fortunately, I also know that many human beings have an innate resistance to baloney and a taste for quality rooted deeper than even marketing can reach.
[The old] idea of publishing is almost gone, replaced by the Amazon model: easy salability, heavy marketing, super-competitive pricing, then trash and replace.
Any publisher willing to print a book that isn’t easy to market, or to keep books that sell modestly but steadily in print, is bucking this trend. Most of them are small houses. The few big publishers that now continue functioning at all under the deliberately destructive pressure of Amazon marketing strategies are increasingly controlled by that pressure, both in what they publish and how long they keep it in print. This pressure forbids them to value quality as well as salability, or to plan in terms of long-term sales.
And the independent booksellers that were and are the natural habitat of the non-best-selling book have been driven out of business — first by the chains that operated as part of the BS Machine, and now, decisively, by Amazon.
As a book dealer and publisher, Amazon wants no competitors, admits no responsibilities, and takes no risks.
Commenters overwhelmingly chimed in to criticize Le Guin, prompting her to a brief response. Over at Salon, Scott Timberg offers up his take.