Amazon Takes Over the World, One Publisher at a Time

A fine romance, with no clinches

Today’s news about Amazon purchasing a 62 year old publishing company with a backlist of 3,000 titles, isn’t a surprise. Nothing Bezos and Amazon does anymore can surprise me, unless they decide to treat employees well and stop using cutthroat tactics to kill competition. Avalon isn’t the first publisher Amazon acquired, and I have no qualms about predicting it won’t be the last, not by a long long shot. I figure if Bezos and company can’t force the publishers to give them exclusive e-book deals, and a cheap cheap price, then he’ll just buy them out. I read a comment on one of the news sites discussing this new twist in the Amazon saga, essentially the poster stated that ‘if Apple bought a record company, people would be going nuts.’ But Amazon is beloved by so many people who can’t see the forest for the trees, that they could buy the rights to the bible, and change every word, and no one would quibble. OK, I exaggerate. But please! If I read one more comment about how Amazon is the future and anyone who criticizes them is clinging to the last palm leaf in a tsunami, I’ll pull Bezos’ hair out. Oops, he hasn’t any.

Nasty? Yes. And so are this company’s tactics. And again, I’m fed up with those who site various conglomerations who did similar things in the past–really? We are OK with the way people worked in sweat shops, and mines, and laying down railroad ties so that the rich owners could build themselves castles with imported gold leaf and authentic carved fireplaces?  The argument of, ‘well that’s capitalism’ doesn’t work when exploitation of the masses for profit and creating a monopoly are part of the system. .  When one company holds a monopoly on an area of business, that’s not OK, and if the same company treats employees like sweat shop workers, that’s definitely not all right. And Amazon is guilty of the second, and is working steadily unopposed at the first.

So, they buy a small publisher with G-rated titles. Why? I find it puzzling, quite honestly. I’ve never heard of any author listed. Actually, I’m not familiar with the publisher, and the stats

No swearing or overindulgence of alcohol allowed in manuscripts

about it claim they publish mostly romances and mysteries. If so, I don’t believe I ever ordered a single title from them when I was manager of mystery bookshops. Which probably means nothing. But does give query as to why–why was this publisher not included in the catalogs handed to me to order from? Could quality be an issue? Or just plain blandness. Here is the guideline on Avalon’s site for submitting a partial manuscript:

Avalon Books imprint, Thomas Bouregy & Co., Inc. is a publisher of hardcover Romances, Mysteries, and Westerns focusing primarily on the library market. There is no explicit sexual content or profanity in any of our novels. It is the author’s responsibility to heighten the romantic atmosphere by developing love scenes with tenderness, emotion, and perception.

In the FAQs section, they elaborate:

A. Sexual tension is fine but not more than a kiss or embrace is allowed.

A. No cursing throughout all of our books. Nothing heavier than a “hell,” “damn” in Westerns and Mysteries. We don’t like cursing at all in our romances. We do not accept racial epithets, no harsh language, and no sexy talk

A. In our Romances keep it minimal, if any. In our Westerns and Mysteries it is okay within reason.

So, what does amazon have to gain from buying this publisher? A couple thousand G-rated books. Not what I’d think of as a cash cow. What will they do with these titles besides make them into e-books? And are we, the public, so uninformed and cheap, that we’d jump at the opportunity to buy the cheapest title possible, even if it, uh, sucks? Sorry, that word would not be allowed in the Avalon library of titles.

Little by little Amazon is chipping away at the last bastion between it and conquering the book selling universe. So far they have a children’s book  publishing company, and a Shaker’s sensibilities within a line of romances, mysteries, and westerns. To what end? Only the evil genius behind the ‘we’re the cheapest and most forward thinking booksellers ever known’ curtain, knows. Just pondering the possibilities makes my skin crawl.

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