Amazon and the Cult of the Corporation

“Why isn’t your book on Amazon?” ask THEY. “You DO know it’s easy to publish with Amazon, right, and it’s, like, the BIGGEST market?” Once you acknowledge that you do, indeed, know this, THEY can, and do, comfortably categorize you as cranky, as one of those people who have a problem with the whole basis of our civilisation — i.e., capitalism. Usually, this is pejoratively expressed as your having a problem with SUCCESS – success, of course, being pretty much its own justification. Which is why prime ministers and presidents are happy to hob-knob with arms dealers. Arms dealers are generally very wealthy and dubiously well-connected — which means successful.

I bought a book, a novel, from a bookshop (I do so frequently). You know, a bricks and mortar, go in and browse, real-world, independent bookshop with someone sitting behind a counter. I took said book back to the office (my particular temple of toil) and left it on my desk. My smart-phone equipped boss came up to me and asked how much I’d paid for it. Whilst asking, he used aforementioned smart-phone to scan the bar code on my purchase. I told him the price, and he told me how much cheaper I could have purchased it for on Amazon. He then went on to outline the benefits of his Amazon Plus account. I joined the league of the cranky by telling him that circumventing Amazon was the point. Huh? Amazon is great! Everything’s so cheap, and they deliver so quickly! Huh! Why would you have a problem with Amazon? Oh, my god, you’re one of those people!

Writers, readers, bookshops, booksellers, agents, publishers, inter alia, would all be better served in a world in which Amazon didn’t exist. Amazon benefits only Amazon. Anything else is simply marketing spin and PR. Amazon wants to make a big profit, and does so, and it wants you to love it while so doing. Don’t inquire into its dubious employment practices, its bullying of publishers and writers, its tax-dodging, and its creeping monopoly position. Amazon used books as a stepping stone to becoming the global department store it is now, and has countries building roads with its name on it in a grovelling attempt to get it to invest — to put one of its high-tech, high-intensity, control-freak, low-paying warehouses in your neighbourhood. Queue up for your zero-hour contract. Welcome to Amazon.

Try telling any of this to anyone who shops at Amazon. The consumers. They REALLY don’t want to hear it. Amazon’s their favourite shop, a branded portal to the goody grotto. Nothing worse you can do to the unthinking consumer than force them to think. Aw, gee, you’re making me feel bad and defensive about my shopping choices. You’re one of those people. Why don’t you just want to make lots of money and spend it on things like everyone else? Exploitation is how the world works. THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT IS. All companies behave this way. And more of that I-don’t-care, self-justifying blah blah that means: Don’t make me question my smug, unthinking, self-entitlement.

That’s the long answer for why my book’s not on Amazon. It’s also why I don’t shop there. Yes, I DO know that if my book were picked up by a publisher I’d have no choice about it being on Amazon, and I do know that Amazon probably don’t care what cranky people like me think so long as the money keeps rolling in, which it will until more people think like me and stop shopping there. And, yes, I do know that that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

As they settle down to their Dan Brown on their Kindle, it seems to be a consolation to the unthinking that the thinking – the cranky people — are so hugely outnumbered. Hopefully, one fine day, we won’t be…


An Individual Will.

AIWCover2Well, I’ve taken the plunge, pushed the button, and effectively given up on the traditional publishing route. My novel, after much formatting (to meet the requirements of the unattractively named Meatgrinder software) has been published via, or on, Smashwords, and can be found here:; and here:

I confess I’m struggling to get to grips with Twitter. I had a young chap explain hashtags to me recently, but we weren’t able to post links to the very #hashtag of the site where I’d published my novel, which seems odd. Then again, I have a less than perfect understanding of what I’m doing web-presence-wise. I was unable to put the image of of my book in the side widget of this blog. The URL to the image disappears when I hit Save. Assume I’m doing something wrong.

I’ll try again later, and persevere with Twitter, though I do find it tiresome. One can spend more time social networking than actually writing, though perhaps it becomes straightforward and rather less time-consuming when one gets used to it. It’s an odd thing, though. Lots of voices engaged in the business of thinking up ever more inventive ways to to be heard above the crowd. Easy in the engagement of this, I shouldn’t wonder, to lose track of why one wanted to be heard in the first place. Always assuming there is a reason. Perhaps it’s just a baby crying – no more complicated than that. One wants to be heard because one is here, and not being heard is being ignored. How awful the boiling down is.

Here I am, then, with my hand up, hoping you’ll pick me.

Indie Publishing.

I’m contemplating doing something I would have considered an admission of failure not so very long ago – that is, publishing directly online (via Smashwords). Indie publishing is how they describe it. I’ve written my interview (though not yet published it), come up with a (simple) cover, and have almost finished preparing the manuscript for the charmlessly named Meatgrinder, the software process that takes a Word document and turns it into various ebook formats for distribution. I’m really rather enjoying the process.

I’ve designed the cover myself, and kept it simple (you might say it shows). Not sure if one needs a precise pixel count when it comes to height and width. I’ll have to read – re-read again if you follow my drift – the Smashwords style guide. Seriously, you do need to read it thoroughly – short-cutting will just cause you pain. If you’re going to use an image/photo for your book cover, don’t just download an image from the internet and assume it’s okay to use it (no matter how commonplace or generic it seems). You might find yourself being sued later, usually at the point when you’ve become successful enough to make it worth doing. Use one of your own, or edit one that’s free of copyright; creative commons, I believe it’s called.

Anyway, I want to reach the point where I’m ready to push the button, and then stand over it, finger poised…