The Guardian: Big Publishing’s most useful idiot
June 26, 2014 | 4:25 pm
In line with its past inflammatory anti-Amazon screeds, UK daily The Guardian has been weighing into the Hachette vs. Amazon spat with histrionic variations of its own. The latest, sublimely, stating that: “New Amazon terms amount to ‘assisted suicide’ for book industry, experts claim.”
The “experts” quoted in this instance are primarily anonymous publishers speaking to The Bookseller. Yes, The Guardian‘s Alison Flood quotes members of the publishers’ club speaking in their favorite house organ as impartial, objective “experts.” The “assisted suicide” quote actually comes from The Bookseller editor Philip Jones, who states that Amazon’s push towards print-on-demand when publishers can’t keep stock levels up amounts to “a form of assisted suicide for the book business, driven by the idea that publishers are a sickly lot unable to run even the most basic operations efficiently.” Actually, I’d say the existence of the remaindered book chains and returns system in the publishing universe already proves that, but let’s leave that aside for now.
The Guardian does then move on to quote Society of Authors chief executive Nicola Solomon about Amazon’s unhealthy dominance over book distribution and pricing. “No one company should have such dominance or be the principal commercial driver of an entire industry,” states Solomon. Well and good, except that there’s been nothing to stop publishers going their own way and offering books direct to consumers, except their own outdated distribution models. I don’t think loyalty to bookstores figured largely in their thinking – judging by past behavior.
It’s a double shame because The Guardian‘s parent Guardian News & Media actually appears to have one of the most successful models for running a newspaper in the digital age, and manages its own digital assets quite well. None of which, alas, seems to filter through to the editorial pages. Once again, The Guardian, left-leaning epitome of Britain’s finest free-thinking liberal traditions, has come out to bat for the media world’s most entrenched, most abusive, would-be cartels. Very useful.