Amazon Again

Now is the Spring of my continued bodily suffrage …

Books and MoneyJust when I thought I was getting better, I got slammed with a massively inconvenient and excruciatingly painful sinus infection last week. I think the worst is over, but man alive, that was the worst I’ve felt since … since my previous sinus infection when I visited my sister in New York for Christmas in 2008. It hit five days ago, and laid me low for the entire day; I only emerged from bed to beg for precious, precious pharmaceuticals from my neighborhood doctor, to forage for food in the apartment, and to occasionally pee. I don’t normally like to take antibiotics, because of the tendency to create resistant super-bacteria, but I was pleading for them this time, that’s how much pain I was in. I felt so bad that I couldn’t even stand to stare passively at the television.

Thankfully, I’m feeling much better now, although since my fever broke on Day 2, I’ve been sweating like my body has decided it just doesn’t want any water in there anymore (I can’t count how many tee shirts I’ve gone through). And yes, this past weekend when I was taking care of Anya so that Janet could participate in minimART at the Substation, I was still recovering, which made those days extra exhausting.

So that’s why I haven’t been blogging, folks. Just trying to keep the fluids inside my leaky boat of corporeality.

Anyway, to completely change the subject, I came across an incredible article from Salon today, called “Amazon’s $1 Million Secret” by Alexander Zaitchik, which dovetails quite nicely with my recent posts about Amazon here and here. Apparently, Amazon has been quietly dispensing grants of around $25,000 to independent presses, translation prizes, book festivals, and literary organizations.

Those bastards! you may scream. How dare they! This just proves once again that … wait. What? Hey, they’re giving out money gratis to worthy literary ventures. Hooray for Amazon!

Well, maybe.

Over the course of the article, Zaitchik makes a compelling case that this move by Amazon may not be just about philanthropy. It’s true that the beneficiaries of Amazon’s beneficence need the money, and such a generous infusion of cash will do them wonders. Especially the publishers, who are just scraping by right now, who have had to downsize their editorial staff, who have resorted to inferior paper because it’s cheaper, who have had to pay their authors less, who have had to cut down on the number of titles they publish each year, who have done all of these things because of the contractual bullying and strong-arm tactics of the biggest bookseller in the world …


So on the one hand you have Amazon crippling these publishers and taking away their will to live, and on the other hand you have Amazon graciously donating grants to these same publishers and giving them financial relief from the dire straits that Amazon actually caused in the first place. There are two effects here:

  1. Amazon gets to keep their prices low on books by these indie presses, and
  2. These publishers are less likely to speak out about Amazon’s general assholery because they don’t want to jeopardize their chances at getting another sweet, sweet grant from Amazon during the next donation cycle.

Sneaky? Yes. Surprising? Sadly, no.

Now, to be fair, Zaitchik isn’t definitively saying that this is what Amazon is up to, but the evidence is strongly suggestive that this is the case. And based on Amazon’s past behavior, it seems highly unlikely that they would have a sudden change of heart and honestly want to help the same people they’re already gouging with their ruthless greed.

But hey, read the whole article (it’s on the longish side, but well worth the effort) and decide for yourself.



Filed under Books, Publishing

3 responses to “Amazon Again

  1. Sorry about the sinus infection. They suck. Had one that knocked me on my back for awhile last month. Interesting take on Amazon. I agree, I doubt it is about philanthropy. The publishing industry is changing rapidly they are playing pretty aggressively.

  2. The superbug has taken more out of you than you may think…do take pains to recover – rest, fluids and nutrition wise, in my humble medical opinion.
    We have spun ourselves an economic tornado haven’t we?

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