Publishers of legal texts have similar reasons to fear. Stay tuned.
Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.
Several large publishers declined to speak on the record about Amazon’s efforts. “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do,” said Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House, who is known for speaking his mind.
“Everyone’s afraid of Amazon,” said Richard Curtis, a longtime agent who is also an e-book publisher. “If you’re a bookstore, Amazon has been in competition with you for some time. If you’re a publisher, one day you wake up and Amazon is competing with you too. And if you’re an agent, Amazon may be stealing your lunch because it is offering authors the opportunity to publish directly and cut you out.
“It’s an old strategy: divide and conquer,” Mr. Curtis said.
Amazon executives, interviewed at the company’s headquarters here, declined to say how many editors the company employed, or how many books it had under contract. But they played down Amazon’s power and said publishers were in love with their own demise.
“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.”
He pointed out, though, that the landscape was in some ways changing for the first time since Gutenberg invented the modern book nearly 600 years ago. “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”
I am a writer, who has readers. The idea of publishing a book with a publisher, who will dictate how the book is published, how it is written, and what it contains, is absurd.
This vignette is telling:
Last fall, Ms. Saville paid $100 to be included in a Publishers Weekly list of self-published writers. The magazine ended up reviewing her memoir, giving it a mixed notice that nevertheless caught the attention of Amazon editors. They sent Ms. Saville an e-mail offering to republish the book. It got an editorial once-over, a new cover and a new title: “Unraveling Anne.” It will be published next month.
Ms. Saville did not get any money upfront, as she would have if a traditional publisher had picked up her memoir. In essence, Amazon has become her partner.