Literary agent Andrew Wylie has compared Amazon to conqueror Napoleon and said the online retailer is showing “megalomania”.
In an interview in New Republic, the renowned US agent was outspoken about the online retailer he once partnered with to launch publishing initiative Odyssey Editions. The partnership went on to spark a row between his agency and Random House.
When asked what it would now take for him to sell a book to Amazon, Wylie said: “If one of my children were kidnapped and they were threatening to throw a child off a bridge and I believed them, I might.”
Wylie said he thought publishers should withdraw their business from Amazon entirely if they were not happy with the terms, and referred to the agreements they struck with Apple and Amazon offering high discounts off titles as “ a huge mistake”.
He said: “I think we’d be fine if publishers just withdrew their product [from Amazon], frankly. If the terms are unsatisfactory, why continue to do business? You think you’re going to lose 30% of your business? Well, that’s OK, because you would have a 30% higher margin for 70% of your business. You have fewer fools reading your books and you get paid more by those who do. What’s wrong with that?”
He added: “I think that Napoleon was a terrific guy before he started crossing national borders. Over the course of time, his temperament changed, and his behavior was insensitive to the nations he occupied.
"Through greed—which it sees differently, as technological development and efficiency for the customer and low price, all that—[Amazon] has walked itself into the position of thinking that it can thrive without the assistance of anyone else. That is megalomania.”
He added that he believed Amazon had a print publishing business so that its behaviour as a distributor of digital content “can be misperceived by the Department of Justice and the publishing industry in a way that is convenient for Amazon’s bottom line".
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