David GaughranNo one could accuse David Gaughran of being afraid to take a stand, or of supine impartiality in his readiness to listen to every side. And the author of Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity in his latest title: “Publishing Is Rotten To The Core.”

Admittedly, this is a post as much about media bias as about the publishing industry itself – or rather, the partiality of mainstream media to anti-Amazon, pro-trad publishing stories – as it is about conditions where print meets paper. But there’s plenty to go around nonetheless. Gaughran doesn’t mince words – but he does leave the reputations of many publishing houses chewed to pulp.

“Try and construct a hypothetical scenario where the New York Times writes an article that is critical of a major publisher,” Gaughran writes, then effortlessly elides into the story of Bertelsmann and their denial of using slave labor during World War 2. And later: “The next time the New York Times acts as an uncritical mouthpiece for a pro-publisher organization which has just spent $104,000 on a full-page spread, ask them why they don’t direct similar moral outrage towards publishers who are cheating writers out of contractually agreed royalties. Ask them why the only time they mention Author Solutions is in an uncritical or even glowing manner (like here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).” And there is a lot more where that came from.

Yes, Gaughran may be firmly planted in the Anti rather than Pro camp – or the Us versus Them camp, or whatever you call it. But the publishers just make it so easy for him. The pragmatic, sensible authorial choice of pick and choose between self-publishing and traditional publishing feels a lot harder to countenance with all this going on. And if counter-critics can come up with an equally long and verifiable list of Amazon/self-publisher misdemeanors, then let them. And never forget, incidentally, that a lot of the Author Solutions criticism is about a Big Five publisher trying to get in on the self-publishing game, which is as anti-book as anything Amazon ever supposedly did.


  1. “Admittedly, this is a post as much about media bias as about the publishing industry itself…”

    I think what angers David Gaughran–and anyone who takes the time to take a look at the industry–is that “media bias” in this case is equivalent to “press release” because the two are one and the same…and there’s no one left to call them on it except independent bloggers:

    – Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS Corp.
    – Penguin Random House is owned by two companies, Bertelsmann with a 51% share and Pearson a 49% share. Until 2003, Pearson owned the RTL Group – the largest commercial television and radio broadcaster in the EU – at which point it was sold to Bertelsmann, which still own the company.
    – HarperCollins is a subsidiary of media behemoth News Corp. – which owns huge chunks of the media market all across the world, including the US (Fox, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal) and the UK (Sky, the Times, The Sun).

    (from Gaughran’s post at http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/amazon-v-hachette-dont-believe-the-spin/)

    This is aside from glaring conflicts of interest such as the NYT’s slam pieces running at almost the same time as it takes $100k ads from Authors United. Or Laura Miller at Slate torching Amazon about the Hachette dispute…while never revealing that Hachette is the publisher of her only book.

    It’s difficult to pull punches when the media you’re encouraged to trust actually owns the entities in question. It’s enough to make anyone mad.

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