In amongst all the doom-mongering of Amazon monopoly and of epublishing in general, there is an alternative view in which the publishing houses are dinosaurs who can – yet refuse – to avoid their own extinction to preserve a monopoly they feel entitled to. Strong stuff, but this is the view of Barry Eisler in this article for The Guardian.
There are some incendiary points in there as well as a completely irrelevant aside about the US Department of Justice’s conduct on political prisoners but this section caught my eye:
wasn’t around for previous technology-driven disruptions of industries, but I’m confident that as cars displaced horse-drawn carriages, electric lights displaced candles, and digitally distributed music displaced CDs, to name just a few, the establishments of the day decried the newcomers’ methods and aims and predicted that the new way would inevitably cause The Destruction of Civilisation and the End of All That Is Good. And yet the doomsayers’ predictions have never come true.
I really cannot argue with that. It is certainly true that every generation has its Luddites regardless of their political persuastion. The Catholic Church were against the Printing Press, the music labels have always done their best to restrict the development of a digital music market. The oil industry is funding pressure groups to spread misinformation about climate science in order to protect their profits and the privelege they have in the market economy. It is a story that is repeated time and time again. The industries that have become cosy in their monopolies must either adapt to it or become obsolete because they spent more time handwringing than thinking about how to adapt.
Like Eisler, I hope the market that emerges is one that works for everybody. I will never stop buying physical books but having a Kindle has made me realise how much space they take up. From a retail point of view, anything that makes Waterstone’s change its business model can be a good thing.