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|Obama Can't Catch a Break |
Bitterly Indifferent 08/20/08, 13:11
|His publisher can't, anyway.|
Chelsea Green Publishing is making a time-sensitive money grab by putting out a pro-Obama (PrObama?) book. Not unusual.
But they're making the book available through Amazon's print-on-demand (POD) service before it gets to bookstores. The bookstores are so upset about getting edged out of the market that Barnes & Noble cut their original purchase order. That is a Very Big Deal.
Chelsea Green Publishing responded with an open letter to the bookselling community, but I have no idea what it was supposed to accomplish. The link to the letter (and their entire site, www.chelseagreen.com) is down right now, but here are some excerpts:
According to a few of the emails our sales team has received, not only is it “a money-grubbing sellout,” a “slap in the face,” and “another blow to independent bookstores” but several stores have cancelled their orders and others have told us that they will never order from us again!
These insults are funny because they're true.
Chelsea Green and the author, Robert Kuttner, are taking an enormous risk in publishing this book. We have two months to get it into readers’ hands before the election. If Obama wins, the book will have even more life, but if he doesn’t the book will be done. This is about a publisher’s commitment to its author to get one of a very few pro-Obama books out into the marketplace in the shortest amount of time.
The publisher and the author are out to make as much money for themselves as possible (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). It's unclear why that information would appeal to a bookseller, or why telling booksellers about this book's (potentially) narrow sales window would make it a good buy. I like how the last sentence makes it sound like exploiting an unfilled niche in the market is some kind of sacred covenant that it is their duty to uphold.
Chelsea Green, along with many other small publishers, could not have survived and thrived without the innovations that Amazon has brought to the book marketplace, including being able to showcase our entire 350 title backlist online where it can be found by our customers.
You are looking at Trotsky's proclamation that "this Stalin fellow has some innovations that can really get our country back on track!" A number of small publishers had been making their own backlists available (on their websites and Amazon) through other POD outfits, and didn't have any problems until they were given an ultimatum to go through Amazon's POD service or have their Amazon privileges revoked. That's to say nothing of the ever-increasing discounts that Amazon is demanding from publishers.
Amazon isn't trying to keep small publishers in business, it's bringing innovations to the marketplace for its own sake. They're better off when small publishers fold because it makes self-publishing through Amazon's POD service look like a good deal.
It’s also important for booksellers to realize that the small publisher has just as monumental a task as the small bookstore when it comes to staying in business.
"It's us or you. We're choosing us, and wish you wouldn't be so pissed off about it."
If we can successfully launch [the book] with our special promotional coupon at the DNC, then your customers will be asking for the book by the time we ship the first printing.
Buried 750+ words into this letter, we have an actual appeal to the booksellers. All the customers who haven't ordered through Amazon and haven't already borrowed copies from their friends will be asking for this book.
Of course if all of you cancel your orders it will mean that a really good and important book on Obama will be effectively boycotted.
Finally, three paragraphs from the end of the letter is perhaps the most shrewd statement she's made.
Even though the public will have been able to purchase the book before it hits the stores, and will continue to be able to purchase it online regardless of whether or not it is on the shelves, she's appealing to the (assumed) liberal sensibilities of these booksellers by telling them that they have the power to withhold it from the public. If you boycott a book on Obama, then McCain has already won.
I'm not sure why the publisher's website is currently down, or if this letter will still be posted when it's back up. I just think it's the most bizarre way to apologize for a perceived slight that I've ever seen.
But what I think isn't important. What does Freep think?
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