Is Amazon trying to close down traditional bookstores? Thoughts on Russo’s article.

Day two of “Amazon Week”.

Novelist, Richard Russo, wrote a thought-provoking op-ed piece for the New York times a couple of weeks ago. It’s called “Amazon’s Jungle Logic.” It’s worth the read. And none of what follows will make much sense if you don’t read it. So please, read it.

The crux of the piece: Amazon launched an “assault” on brick-and-mortar bookstores (especially small independents) with a recent promotion in which they encouraged smartphone users to scan items in stores with their price-check app. In doing so they would earn a 5% credit on purchases at Amazon. Note – books were excluded from this promotion.

Russo eventually contacted other best-selling writers who have benefited both from Amazon and regular stores: Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Andre Dubus III, Anita Shreve, Tom Perrotta and Ann Patchett. I won’t re-write everything they added to the discussion here (it’s all in his article linked above) but it’s worth noting that Russo went straight to other writers before determining his final verdict on this promotion. Only a writer would have done that, I think, and I’m glad he did.

Russo ends the article angry, and name-calling:

As I see it, the problem with Amazon stems from the fact that though it started out as a bookseller, it isn’t anymore, not really. It sells everything now, and it sells it all aggressively. Maybe Amazon doesn’t care about the larger bookselling universe because it’s simply too big to care. In a way it’s become, like the John Candy character (minus the eager, slobbering benevolence) in Mel Brooks’s movie “Spaceballs” — half man, half dog and thus its own best friend.

What do you think – should tomorrow’s novelists (me and you, perhaps?) be concerned that Amazon will ruin bookstores before their books even hit the shelves? Was Amazon’s promotion as “ham-fisted” as Russo claims?

I have my doubts about both assertions.

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