Dog-Eared and Dispatched: August 11, 2013With Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post, labor strikes at Amazon warehouses in Germany, and the ongoing and increasingly bitter battle between Apple and the Department of Justice, the past seven days have comprised many rude awakenings in book culture. During all of this tension, literary voices new and old have been re-examining the conflict between Amazon and publishers/booksellers, with this week’s highlighted commentators consisting of Book Riot’s associate editor Rebecca Joines Schinsky and American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher. Lastly, in an effort to remember the life of literature beyond the economics of books, we turn to Miami Dade College professor and Huffington Post contributor J.J. Colagrande, who shares how public libraries changed his life.
This week began with a Liam Neeson-style punch to the throat as The Washington Post announced its new ownership under Amazon founder and executive chief Jeff Bezos. Chairman Donald Graham spoke to the Post staff following an initial statement by publisher Katherine Weymouth, addressing the Graham family’s 80-year stewardship of the newspaper and the heartbreaking change in proprietorship the Post‘s seven-year decline in revenue has necessitated. In a letter to Post employees, Bezos said he understands the worry that accompanies change such as this, but that the values of the Post will not be altered by this purchase: “The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.” The public hasn’t been completely reassured however, with the debate about what this acquisition means for the future of the Post still going strong . [The Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Publisher’s Weekly]
Despite presidential visits, media purchases, and their new art dealership (because at this point, why not?), it hasn’t been all sunny skies for Amazon these past few weeks. This is particularly true across the Atlantic, where several warehouse strikes over labor laws have been taking place in Germany, Amazon’s second largest market. Amazon’s aversion to organized labor has been clashing dramatically with Germany’s union practices, with Uni Global Union’s technology and communications department head Marcus Courtney stating, “In Germany, the idea that warehouse workers are going to be getting opposition from an employer when it comes to the right to organize, that’s virtually unheard-of. It puts Amazon out in left field.” [GalleyCat, The New York Times]
The fight between Apple and The Department of Justice continues this week, with Apple acting in defiance of the court’s recent ruling via a strongly-worded letter in response to the government’s remedy proposal. Shortly thereafter, Apple attorneys called for a halt in the case’s proceedings as the company drafted an appeal letter, including a list of errors they believe occurred during the trial. Apple received the backing of the Big Five regarding this matter, with the United States’ largest publishers objecting to the government’s proposed restrictions on the company. The DOJ promptly rejected Apple’s appeal, gaining the support of Kobo and the Consumer Federation of America in the process. [Publisher’s Weekly, Reuters]
As the animosity between Amazon and the rest of the publishing/bookselling world continues to grow, an array of voices are now reaching out to the public from various media platforms. Two such writers this week are Book Riot’s associate editor Rebecca Joines Schinsky and American Bookseller’s Association CEO Oren Teicher. In her blog post ” Real Talk About President Obama’s Amazon Visit,” Schinsky addresses the need for publishers to recognize the enticing services Amazon provides its clientele and to re-think how they are presenting themselves in their fight against this massive online retailer. In his open letter to booksellers, Teicher touches on similar themes, calling on booksellers to keep up the good fight and recognize what resources they can give to readers that Amazon will never be able to: “You and your bookselling colleagues know the real narrative of the Amazon story, but it’s important that we keep in mind the viewpoint and experience of our customers. Amazon’s public message of low prices and wide selection are, regrettably, the only story that many consumers know.” [The Huffington Post, ABA]
“I found great comfort being surrounded by books. I would sneak off to the library and stay there for hours, when I felt anxious or things were bad at home. I would go to the library after-school and just read, or write, while my friends were getting high in the park. Books, and only books, allowed me to feel safe—they were all I trusted and molded me into the adult I am.” In a refreshing look at books beyond the financial spectrum, Miami Dade College Professor and Huffington Post blogger J.J. Colagrande discusses the life-changing value of libraries—the benefits of which hotels are becoming increasingly aware of as well it seems. [The Huffington Post, The New York Times]