If you’ve been paying attention to the book world, you’ve been hearing a lot about the Amazon Vs. Hachette dust-up. It’s been called a war, it’s been called a fight for the soul of books, it’s been called a lot of things. It’s an important battle, even if most readers don’t care as much as people in the book business would hope they would. I have a few things I’d like to say that won’t directly relate to the Amazon Vs. Hachette thing, but I think may give readers something to think about when making decisions.
1) Books are cheap. If you buy the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s newly released in paperback form novel, Americannah, any reasonable reader (one who reads before bed, on the bus to work, or for a few hours on the weekend) can expect to get roughly three weeks worth of entertainment out of their $15 investment. That’s an incredible return. That’s full price, and still it dwarfs the time vs. funds equation of things like movies, food, live music, museums, theater, and really any other type of entertainment. This is to say, don’t let people fool you into thinking that you are being duped into overpriced merchandise when you buy books.
2) You (reader) matter to the book community, and it is a community. You are the desired recipient of the publishers and booksellers merchandise, so you are the sole entity with the power to guide the industry in the ways you wish. You like to read YA? Great! We are now in a golden age of YA. You like your reading group? Great! Most publishers have embraced your group, and will supply materials to help facilitate your meetings. If you want to buy diverse books–50 Shades and Capital in the Twenty-First Century–we will be happy and make both of those books. But, with power comes responsibility. I urge you to be a good member of the literary community. What does this mean? Well it means whatever you want it to mean. For me it means facilitating a book group, writing a blog, talking about books, reading books by women, persons of color, and works in translation, and it means buying from sources that I respect and that respect the book world as a whole. You have the power, so it can mean whatever you want it to mean.