Dog-Eared and Dispatched: August 23, 2015
As publishers prepare for the fall season, book news was quiet this week – save for the big outlier in the literary world: Amazon. This week we take a longer look at a recently published critique of Amazon’s white-collar workplace and round things off with footnotes on ebook rights management, the Confederate flag, and much more. Ready? Set. Read!
The New York Times published an article titled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” at the beginning of the week. Based on interviews with more than 100 former and current Amazon employees, and the revelations about the company’s corporate culture sent a shock wave throughout major media. A former human resources director was quoted saying, “the company’s winners dream up innovations that they roll out to a quarter-billion customers and accrue small fortunes in soaring stock. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff—’purposeful Darwinism.'” Responses to the article have been varied widely, but many journalists and users of social media have focus on the same dramatic details, one of which is the assertion that some Amazon employees who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal or medial emergencies said they had been “evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.”
Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos responded in a company-wide memo that was posted by GeekWire. Bezos wrote that he did not recognize the company described in the article saying, “I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want. I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.”
In a heavily shared LinkedIn post, Amazon executive Nick Ciubotariu also responded in defense of the company: “I’ve read many articles that describe us. Some are more accurate than others. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. This particular article, has so many inaccuracies (some clearly deliberate), that, as an Amazonian, and a proud one at that, I feel compelled to respond.” John Rossman, an ex-Amazonian and the author ofThe Amazon Way, was quoted in the article saying that Amazon is “the greatest place I hate to work.” It seems that everyone is responding to the allegation of Amazon’s brutal workplace environment including Nancy Pelosi. By the end of the week, Authors United had joined the raging noise around Bezos and Amazon by submitted a formal request to the U.S. Department of Justice, proposing that Amazon be investigated as a monopoly in the book publishing market. (The New York Times, GeekWire, Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, GalleyCat, The Wallstreet Journal)
- The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association harshly criticized the outdated and cumbersome American Booksellers Association’s IndieCommerce site.
- Germany’s Penguin Random House has adopted “soft DRM” for digital content offerings.
- Swedish behavioral psychologist and linguist Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin is outselling Go Set A Watchman and The Girl on The Train with The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep, a title that promises to help children fall asleep in a few minutes. This self-published title also coincides with recent studies that suggest reading aloud to children strengthens the area of the brain responsible for multisensory integration.
- Julian Bond, an honored civil rights leader and the co-director of the oral history project, Explorations in Black Leadership, passed away this week.
- Simon & Schuster and Hotels.com have partnered to offer one of seven ebooks as a free download for Hotels.com customers who book a two-night stay.
- Authors John Grisham, Richard Ford, and Kathryn Stockett joined advocates including actor Morgan Freeman and former NFL quarterback Archie Manning to sign a letter calling for the removal of the Confederate emblem on Mississippi’s state flag.
- Sir Elton John condemned Venice’s city mayor Luigi Brugnaro as “boorishly bigoted” for removing picture books about same-sex families from school libraries.
- Fantagraphics has extended and expanded its deal with ComiXology to sell books on Amazon, adding 300 new titles for Kindle in coming weeks.