I’m not a one-issue voter, but I’m disappointed that Elizabeth Warren called for the breakup of Amazon, Google, and Facebook. It feels kind of desperate to me. These are not like the Bell telephone companies that once had literal monopolies. Instead, they are on-line corporations that had competition from the beginning and just grew wildly popular. Sure, the three companies are far from saints and need some oversight. But break them up? Come on.
Let’s look specifically at Amazon: For years independent bookstores have complained that they can’t compete with the internet giant, and Warren has obviously listened. But sometimes you just have to tip your hat to progress. For every independent bookstore that Amazon has allegedly put out of business, they’ve also made it possible for many more indie authors to live their dreams and reach readers around the globe. The same goes for indie musicians and indie filmmakers.
And from personal experience, I know that independent bookstores treat indie authors like shit. For my first two books, I tried extremely hard to support independent bookstores. But independent bookstores are generally slow at paying their bills, and they often play the return game: ordering new books and “paying” for them by prematurely sending back other books for credit. Since distributors don’t inspect the returns, indie authors get tattered, even used, books back that are unsellable. For my third and fourth books, I have generally given up on independent bookstores and instead put my efforts toward promoting on-line sales. Consequently, my worldwide readership has grown dramatically.
Also, as a reader, I’ve found that books from indie authors are often better in both quality and price than those from giant publishing companies. Why should an author have to get “corporate approval” for a book to be considered good? Among my favorite indie authors are Rick Gualtieri, Jeff Strand, H. Claire Taylor, Anthony Miller, and Barry J. Hutchinson. Not only would I have never found those writers without Amazon, but also the chances are good (at least with some) that their books wouldn’t even exist.
My point is that this is a more complicated issue than it sounds, and I suspect that Elizabeth Warren is unaware of the consequences should her proposal be enacted. As an indie author, I guarantee that I will swear at Amazon within the next week. Sometimes I just hate them! Their rules are arbitrary, and they are incapable of thinking outside the box. But most of the time I like them.
Without a doubt, breaking up Amazon would negatively affect more people than it would help. Working to fix Amazon’s flaws is a good thing. Proposing to break them up is a big mistake, and I have a hunch Elizabeth Warren will regret her proposal.