Gaiman on HBG/Amazon dispute: 'Books are sacred'

Gaiman on HBG/Amazon dispute: 'Books are sacred'

Amazon has too large a share in the book market and there is a need for more healthy, independent bookshops, according to author Neil Gaiman.

Speaking to the US-based Salon magazine, Gaiman said the nature of publishing has changed and that “you’re watching capitalism in action, and it’s no fun”.

The author said he wasn’t sure where he stood on the recent Amazon Hachette dispute, which is taking place as the companies try to negotiate terms.

“I’m a weird mixture right now,” he said. “Every time I try to actually read enough stuff to figure out what’s going on here, what I run into is lots of ‘We can’t say anything, but he says,’ and ‘We can’t say anything, but she says.’”

However, he said the dispute is definitely “bad for authors”.

“I think that books are special. Books are sacred,” he said. “And I think that when you are selling books you have to remember that in all the profits and loss, in all of that, you are treading on sacred ground. Again, it’s complicated by the fact you’re dealing with giant multi-billion dollar organisations.”

Online stores and large chain bookshops could not match the experience of going into a good independent bookshop, he added.

During the dispute between Hachette and Amazon, some titles from the publisher have been subject to delayed shipping, while others had the pre-order button removed.

But Gaiman said young authors and writers shouldn’t be discouraged because “nobody, not even Jeff Bezos, as a clue what’s going on, how it’s all going to work, or what things are going to be like in five years’ time”.

He added: “It’s a fantastic time to be a young author. What it means is you can… try things that ancient fuddy-duddy creatures like me would never imagine”

Gaiman is not the first author to have waded into the debate surrounding the Hachette/Amazon stand-off.  Speaking about the difficulties readers were having in getting Hachette books from the retailer, James Patterson said what he did not “understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers”.

He added that it “certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors”.

Jeffery Deaver said he hoped customers who were having difficulty finding his books on Amazon would “find an alternative”.

“As someone who labors hard to make reading my books an enjoyable experience, I’m sorry that some of you will have a less-than-happy time acquiring them,” he added.

J K Rowling, whose new Robert Galbraith novel The Silkworm (Sphere) is not available for pre-order on Amazon.com in its physical edition, posted a message on the Galbraith account on Twitter, saying that “there are lots of ways to order #TheSilkworm in US, as Amazon kindly suggest”, linking to the website of Mulholland Books, the Little, Brown imprint publishing her book.

Malcolm Gladwell said it was “sort of heartbreaking” " to see a "partner" turn on him, with his sales on Amazon halved since the dispute began.

John Green, who is not published by Hachette, accused the internet retailer of bullying and said: "What’s ultimately at stake is whether Amazon is going to be able to freely and permanently bully publishers into eventual nonexistence.”