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Authors Fire Back at Amazon Citing ‘Censorship’. Really?

Authors will fire back at Amazon with calls for a government investigation

If you haven’t been following what’s been going on between Amazon and Hachette, here is the really brief: Amazon has been halting/blocking/delaying shipment/sometimes-making-it-near-impossible for customers to order or pre-order any book by publisher Hachette.  The reason for this is money: there is a contract dispute between the two companies, where each one thinks they should get a bigger piece of the pie.  Both say they are working for the authors’ best interests, but yeah, no, they are generally just working for their own.

Because of all this, the authors are rightfully pissed.  The two big companies can afford to fight, but for some authors, whose books are being messed around with by one of the biggest retailers in the U.S., all of this means lost revenue and visibility.  Imagine you are trying to release a new book, either another one in a series or a completely new book, and people can’t pre-order it, and when they can order it their shipment is delayed for weeks, pissing them off.  Infuriating, right?

Well, now the authors are trying to take their fight to the government.  Both the authors and Engadget feel that the issue here is censorship.  To quote Ursula K LeGuin, one of the recent signers of the letter to the government:

“Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.”

I just have one major problem with this statement: this is not really censorship!  Yes, I repeat, though the authors try to call it censorship, it isn’t.  Is Amazon being a dick?  Yeah, they are.  But you know what?  They are a freaking business, and they have the right to sell whatever they want and not sell whatever they don’t want.  It’s not censorship if they don’t want to sell your product.  I don’t go to the government because the local supermarket refuses to carry a kind of bread I want.

And this isn’t monopolistic, either, as some of the authors claim as well.  They are an online store where yes, you can buy books, and yes, you can buy e-books.  Are they the only place you can do that?  Um, no.  I can buy books from many, many, many different places both online and off, and I can buy e-books from a number of places as well (or borrow from my library).  Yes, due to DRM there are limitations for e-books (i.e. Kindle owners need to buy their books from Amazon), but books can be released without DRM (see the Harry Potter series for a start) so they can be read on any device, or, gasp, people can just read a regular physical copy of a book they could get from literally hundreds of places.

Authors, you had my sympathy.  Now, you have me shaking my head at a total bunch of idiots who are throwing around incorrectly used buzzwords to try and rile people up.  You might as well go on or work for Fox News.  Amazon isn’t censoring your books.  They are simply not selling them as a centuries-old business tactic.  They are not a monopoly, as your readers have dozens upon dozens of other ways they could get your books.

If your books aren’t selling and you are losing money, it’s not them, it’s you.

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