My RSS feeds have been flooded this week with stories about the latest Amazon vs Hachette development, the letter author Douglas Preston initiated urging readers to email Jeff Bezos and tell him what they think.
I have written before about this and pointed out that tons of companies limit or restrict sales for all sorts of reasons. I myself have been on the hunt for a certain lunch container ever since I heard about its release, but the Canadian reseller doesn’t have it yet because the creator likes to sell it on their website exclusively first, before they offer it to other vendors. And nobody is saying they are evil for it. There is no pre-order button, no email list, nothing. It’s just ‘when we have it, we’ll put it up and then you can buy it.’ And…well, let’s just say that if I resolve to sit here and wait while you all get out the torches and pikes for their heads, I will miss the wedding I’m going to this evening.
Meanwhile, the course I am taking this summer is all about reading, and they make the useful point in the course textbook that even in this enlightened tech age, teachers seem to prioritize print, and that the assessment of reading is still mostly pen and paper based. Printed text is important, nobody would say it is not. But the book goes on to identify other aspects of literacy, all important, which get the short shrift sometimes. There is media literacy, for instance, which helps students learn to process and interpret all of that printed text they read.
So, why is Amazon being vilified here? Why is nobody calling for the head of the lunchbox maker—who surely takes their profits and their vendor relationships, and their product development just as seriously as Hachette takes theirs—not being vilified for restricting the supply chain, for failing to make product available through the channels people prefer, for failing to offer a pre-order button? Is it because people still do romanticize those printed books? Would anybody care if this was actually about just a product, and not a piece of perceived art?