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A sobering story

18 January 2016

It's a slightly demanding read, but Mike Shatzkin's latest post on The Shatzkin Files is essential reading if you want to understand the contemporary bookselling scene and how it is increasingly controlled and shaped by the huge conglomerates which dominate the web.

Shatzkin starts with a brief history of American publishing, especially as it developed into a mass-market, with large bookselling companies matched by large publishers. But the really masterly part of his analysis is showing how Amazon has come to dominate publishers' sales, along with the others of the Four Horsemen whom he sees as controlling the future - Google, Apple and Facebook.

The book business is not of real significance to any of them, financially speaking, which is a scary thought and links to our link this week to Philip Pullman's assertion of the importance of the creators and how their rights must be safeguarded. We have been lulled by the importance Amazon initially attached to book sales but it's clear now that the books were just a way of starting to build the business and get customers, books being a commodity which could easily be sold online, using high discounts to drive sales.

It's a sobering story, but, yes, it is essential reading.

Book publishing lives in an environment shaped by larger forces and always has - The Shatzkin Files The Shatzkin Files

Philip Pullman condemns publishers who 'steamroller' authors | The Bookseller