Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Notes on the Obama Book Controversy

Yesterday I wrote that "I really don't care" that Chelsea Green is making their new Obama bio available exclusively on Amazon for the initial weeks of its release. Pinky was good enough to give me a nod for it, too. I just wanted to point out that what I meant was that I don't really care about this one particular Obama bio (or, really, any Obama bio. Sorry.). I do think the idea of a publisher making a book - any book - exclusively available on Amazon is a major problem, and in certain ways, a misstep. Sure, they're getting a lot more publicity on this book than they would have (there is zero chance I would've mentioned it on this blog if not for the controversy), but is it really a good idea to alienate all the independent bookstores? Are indies going to get behind this book and recommend it to customers once it's made available? I guess we'll find out.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to read Gayle Shanks', president of the American Booksellers Association, eloquent letter on the subject:
One of my core beliefs as a bookseller is that a free society depends on a diverse marketplace of ideas, and that closed markets, exclusive agreements, and tactics designed to achieve a short-term victory at the expense of core values are both short-sighted and counter productive. The issue of exclusivity works to the detriment of independent businesses; open markets encourage the free flow of ideas. Ironically, Chelsea Green's actions come in a campaign season where the clarion call by the candidate who is the subject of their book has been for meaningful change -- especially to change politics from an enterprise monopolized by a privileged few making decisions behind closed doors to one in which a diverse society participates in an open process.

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