I was led to this story by a Dan Moren post on Six Colors and it was just so remarkable that I had to place it here. I’ll also use Dan’s chosen pullquote:
Turns out, the tech giant has also become a publishing powerhouse — and it won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. That’s right, for a decade, the company that killed bookstores has been starving the reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious. And that’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own.
The reasoning behind this is likely to be something to do with capitalism, competition, and yadda yadda yadda. “We can’t let people have access to our product for free. They wouldn’t be compelled to purchase from us then! Why would we let someone else dabble in our product? How crazy would that be?”
Except the competition in this case are the libraries. They are young people. They are people who can’t afford to buy a brand new book whenever they want or have to read something. They are people who have lost work because of COVID (or any other reason) and are looking to develop skills that could make them hireable in another field.
How could any of that send a shiver down Amazon’s spine? What’s the harm in selling their books to libraries?1
Selling their product to a separate entity they couldn’t fully control would cost them some of their power through that dispersion. It would muddy their clear waters. Once they have that power, why would they ever let go of it? Keeping control over their published materials only benefits Amazon, and they’re more than happy to ensure it stays that way. They will not hesitate to employ their considerable wealth and popularity to maintain their monopolistic position.
At this point, I’m ready to follow in the footsteps of @Burk and escape the Amazon myself. This sort of heavyhanded restriction to stories and knowledge is greedy and harmful. I’m not saying I’m surprised by Amazon’s actions here, but I continue to be disappointed in them. They probably believe that they’re making the world better, or at least more convenient to live in, but when that’s done in the name of profit and under the guise of simplicity and affordability, the world just becomes worse. 📚