Is Amazon the Wal-Mart of Books?

Here’s another excerpt from the interesting article I read recently in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Boston Review titled “Books After Amazon: Publishing’s Race to the Bottom” by Onnesha Roychoudhuri — which is available to read in its entirety by clicking here

Many in the publishing community mock Amazon as the “Wal-Mart of books,” but it’s important to remember that Wal-Mart is also the Wal-Mart of books. Last year, Target, Amazon, and Wal-Mart fought a price war over a handful of new hardcover bestsellers. Books with $25 and $35 retail prices were being offered for nine dollars or less.

In response to the price war, the ABA wrote a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), requesting that it investigate possible “illegal predatory pricing.” David Gernert, a literary agent who represents the novelist John Grisham and was quoted in the ABA letter, told The New York Times: “If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over. If you can buy Stephen King’s new novel or John Grisham’s Ford County, for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25?” People who tend to read Grisham and King aren’t necessarily reaching for a brilliant first novel, but Gernert’s point still has some force: devaluing the books produced by an industry already squeezed to the brink is not likely to benefit the reader in the end.