John shares his thoughts about Amazon.com and the publishing industry
VJ Books is an independent bookstore - we are the largest indie on the internet - we don't have a brick and mortar storefront. We specialize in collectible books, sponsoring 50 or so author signings each month. Unlike most stores, we continue to acquire backlist titles in an attempt to provide our customers with a path to their favorite author's earlier works.
We are often frustrated with Amazon, as they consistently price their books at or below what we pay for the same title. However, they are not our competition. We offer signed, collectible 1st editions - they do not. In fact, they provide us a place to reach potential customers, as our inventory is also listed on Amazon (just click the "collectible" link next to a title).
Amazon is good for the book industry. Okay, I said it - Amazon is good. They grow the market by offering the largest inventory of titles by the most authors at reasonable prices. New readers who are exposed to books and authors through Amazon's aggressive marketing philosophy are potential customers for VJ Books, as they learn to love books, and eventually seek a collectible copy of their favorite title.
I have read both the letters by Doug Preston and Joe Konrath concerning the raging war between Amazon and Hachette, and have been reluctant to wade into these turbulent waters. I consider both Doug and Joe as friends - they have both been good to us for many years.
My hope is that this conflict will soon find resolution, but I must raise my voice on the side of Amazon. Konrath, more eloquently than me (he's a gifted writer - I am not), has clearly communicated the strangle hold, and how the "big five" has control over who and what gets published. Now with the merger of Penguin Putnam and Random House, fewer people are actually choosing what we will see in print.
Through our imprint, Norwood Press, we have embraced some of these issues, as we seek to publish titles by authors who have been dropped or overlooked by the conventional publishers. Recently, we have launched a Kickstarter Campaign to assist us in producing our fourth title by Alan Jacobson, SPECTRUM.
Amazon has made it possible for many authors not only to survive, but to thrive, as the book industry seeks a new equilibrium. Starving artists seldom produce much art - they just starve, and we are denied the miracle of their talents.
"New York Publishing once controlled the book industry. They decided which stories you were allowed to read. They decided which authors were allowed to publish. They charged high prices while withholding less expensive formats. They paid authors as little as possible, usually between 2% and 12.5% of the list price of a book.
Amazon, in contrast, trusts you to decide what to read, and they strive to keep the price you pay low. They allow all writers to publish on their platform, and they pay authors between 35% and 70% of the list price of the book." (From the Writer's Petition)
We at VJ Books believe that the surest way to insure the creative process is by treating authors fairly, and with respect - and by assuring them that they will receive the lion's share of the profit gained from their labor. We regret that many of the authors we once promoted, and whose books our customers came to love, have moved from print to digital formats, but we salute them for their continuing to create, keeping their voice alive.
To Joe Konrath, Blake Crouch, Alan Jacobson, Barry Eisler and all our other friends now residing on Amazon - thank you, and keep up the good fight.