Amazon as Publisher

Of course, we all familiar with Amazon as seller of books, e-books, and audiobooks. But maybe people do not realize that Amazon has become a huge force in the publishing business as well.

Amazon, the subject of Congressional investigations for its monopolistic ways, has made Jeff Bezos, its owner, worth some $193 billion dollars. With its tentacles into the publishing industry, it not only sells books, but it also publishes them, and this makes for further complications and accusations.

A recent article in the Washington Post reports a problem with public libraries. The e-books and audiobooks published by Amazon are not available to libraries. Most other large publishers do make deals with libraries. I know because I frequently read e-books via Overdrive, a digital distribution company that handles transactions between libraries and publishers. I usually read them on my Kindle, the popular Amazon e-reader. (An important point is that the books made available via my library card are free to me; my public library pays the publisher for this deal.)

I find myself viewing this situation from different standpoints.  As an Amazon customer, I am aware that the company has frequently been criticized for ruining brick-and-mortar bookstores, and I am ambivalent about giving them my business, but I respect, even admire, their efficiency. (I have especially appreciated their service during the COVID-19 pandemic.) As I said, I am a Kindle reader and sometimes opt to buy an e-book that is cheaper than its print version.

As a writer, I am somewhat wary of Amazon. It has been accused of practices that are unfair to authors. I have considered publishing with Amazon, but I feel their withholding electronic books from libraries makes me less likely to do so.

As a retired librarian, who spent many days of my life behind reference desks, I am foursquare in favor of the democratic ideal of making books and information freely available to the public.

Finally, as a reader, I think the ease of downloading e-books via Overdrive is great.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that Amazon is in negotiation with the nonprofit Digital Library of America to make its e-book content available to public libraries. I hope that happens.

Here are links to three articles if you’re interested in reading more about the issue:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/10/amazon-library-ebook-monopoly/

https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/10/22323434/amazon-publishing-library-lending-access-refuse-overdrive-libby

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/85068-dpla-in-talks-to-offer-amazon-publishing-e-books-to-libraries.html

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