Last week the Author's Guild, which aims to represent the interests of 8,200 authors or their estates, called on its members to boycott Amazon.com. Their beef is that when book buyers search for a title, Amazon spotlights a link to buy the book used almost as prominently as the link for the shiny new merch. Amazon gets paid either way, you see, while the author gets paid only for the new book. The Guild asked its members to de-link Amazon from their Web sites.
Coverage was desultory last week; most outlets that bothered ran AP copy from writer Hillel Italie. The story picked up steam yesterday when Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos publicly defended his firm's practice, and as a result the head of the Author's Guild was inundated with thousands of emails, according to the AP. Bezos' letter reminded readers that the Guild is the same organization that has "advocated charging public libraries royalties on books they loan out."
Several book people who run weblogs weighed in on the debate. Sci-fi author Cory Doctorow and publisher Tim O'Reilly both strongly supported Amazon's position. O'Reilly linked the Guild's move to the "slippery slope that our lawmakers, prodded by copyright interests, have already traveled so far."
M.J. Rose, Wired's writer on matters bookish, added some much-needed concreteness to the debate with hard numbers. Consider an average book that sells 30,000 copies a year. Used books sold through Amazon account for only 315 of those, according to Rose's sources. Rose quoted the publisher of Context Books: "Those used copies, however, will be read and create a broader readership through word of mouth." Another pair of numbers hints at the outcome of this debate: Only 700 Guild members have Web sites, and Amazon's affiliates program (the members who link to the bookseller's site) is 1,000 times larger. - Keith Dawson
Authors Guild: De-Link Amazon.com (AP)
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