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Amazon Deals With Reluctant Publishers By Signing Authors Directly

As you are doubtless aware, Amazon has been making a big push into the digital distribution of books. They’ve got several varieties of Kindles designed for the purpose and a terrific platform from which to do so, the main problem so far has really been reluctant publishers. It seems that Amazon has found a potential way around that, however; hire the authors yourself.

Traditional publishers have been scared of eBooks pretty much from the start since their easy distribution undermines the problem publishing houses were made to solve. With Amazon’s push to allow for Netflix-style book rental, most big publishers backed off even further, prompting Amazon to try and lure, coerce, or force them into cooperation. That hasn’t worked so well, so Amazon is throwing down the gauntlet and publishing 122 books this fall, in physical and eBook form.

In typical I’m-a-threatened-large-business form, big publishers have not been reacting so well to the competition. Writer Kiana Davenport, signed to Penguin and given a $20,000 advance for her book The Chinese Soldier’s Daughter, found herself in some seriously hot water when she pulled together her old short stories and began selling them as eBooks. Penguin accused her of violating her contract by willingly competing with her Penguin-published novel. All she wanted to do was try and ride her own hype-wave, but Penguin was not pleased.

Of course, you can see why big-name publishers would be afraid. Amazon has already put countless bookstores out of business and it’s only reasonable to assume that it will wreak similar havoc once it moves into the field of publishing and representation. The mistake it seems that the publishers are making is trying to stand up to that Goliath instead of trying to get on its good side; it’d take more than one stone to take this monster down. Still, things may not be as catastrophic as everyone is acting. “It’s always the end of the world. You could set your watch on it arriving,” says an Amazon executive Russell Grandinetti in a quote I wish I’d come up with. Either way, the times are changing. I better put my nose to the grind stone and finish start that novel I’ve been thinking about if I ever wanna see it on a physical bookshelf.

(via New York Times)

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