It’s hard to improve on  Nate Hoffelder’s indignation over on The Digital Reader at The Guardian‘s ludicrously alarmist piece, headlined “Ebooks and discounts drive 98 publishers out of business,” but I’ll at least second that emotion.

First, to briefly go over the facts: The article claims that 98 UK publishers closed their doors in the 12-month period ending August 31st, 2013, a 42 percent increase. The statistics quoted in the article are drawn from a report by accounting firm Wilkins Kennedy, quoted initially in a piece by Sally Davies in the UK Financial Times, with a far less hysterical headline: “Number of publishers forced out of business shows sharp increase.”

What makes the piece doubly infuriating is the evidence of lazy journalism. Liz Bury then links from the Guardian Books section to that FT article, not to Wilkins Kennedy itself, and repeats quotes from Wilkins Kennedy partner Anthony Cork verbatim from the same article, even choosing the same examples of publishers pushed over the brink as the FT journalist does. She then goes on to reference a quote in full from that well-known cultural latitudinarian and visionary tech geek Jonathan Franzen – and yes, it’s Franzen’s famous anti-Amazon screed from back in September, already reported in full.

Bury doesn’t pick up, though, on the far more pro-Amazonian remarks in the FT article from Angus Phillips, director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies, which suggest that Amazon actually offers a route for smaller publishers that wouldn’t otherwise be stocked by major book chains to reach their customers. Or from Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, which state that overall the publishing industry’s situation allows for “some optimism.” And she didn’t ask why those insolvent publishers couldn’t have moved into ebook publishing. Or question Cork’s claim that legitimate person-to-person online second-hand book sales are suddenly a serious threat to the business of UK publishers.

And fine, Bury may have gone back to Wilkins Kennedy and reconfirmed the details and quotes. But she didn’t exactly go very far to find counterpoints. Why let a little thing like balance get in the way of a good piece of scaremongering, eh? Especially when you have an anti-Amazon animus to feed. Nice to see The Guardian joining the ranks of The Kernel and the Daily Mail.


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