This is the part of this blog where Sarah takes off the gloves, turns the picture of Heinlein to the wall* so he won’t be shocked by what she’s about to say, and then speaks in the way she learned when fishwives argued near her.

You’ve been warned.

There is a lot to be said for someone of my temperament and approaching an age when I no longer suffer fools gladly (or indeed at all) not going near my main facebook page.  There is no time to block out ever custard-head on facebook, and no matter how many times I warn them this isn’t safe** – nor indeed sane – they persist in posting stuff that drives me nuts.

I count it as a great proof of maturity that most of the time I simply shake my head and go on to my groups or to my dedicated page without bothering to bring out the baseball bat with the rusty nails in.

But then, periodically, I find the stupid is being echoed all over and the same websites linked over and over again, with the same nonsensical points, which tells me it’s not only a coordinated campaign, but it’s a coordinated campaign being brought to bear by “someone above” with a good publicity department.  And when that campaign is both crazy and stupid – and it’s amazing how often that happens and how often the bleating hordes echo this nonsense – I sometimes lose my patience.  This is not a good thing, because though I’m more controlled than in my teen years, when I was kicked off the rugby team for unnecessary roughness, it is often a distinction without meaning.  I no longer pound you — most of you took the precaution of living out of reach, you sneaky fiends you — I DO foam at the mouth and punch walls.

So, what has got me off my cherubic and positively laid-back posture lately?  Well, this morning when I innocently opened face book, to see if a friend had answered on our latest message exchange, I found that people all over are posting against Amazon.

Now, this is of course nothing new.  For the last several months we’ve been hearing the rumblings of this, as people whine, complain and moan about everything in Amazon, from the fact that they point out big publishers DO set those outrageous e-book prices, to the fact that they’ll lower your prices if they find you’re selling cheaper elsewhere.  Oh, yeah, also if you are a small press and refuse to give them the authority to do that, they won’t do business with you.

This is more of the same, with a sustained, high pitch whine (yes, this is reference to dog whistle, why?) that “someone” do something to stop Amazon having this dreadful power to… control the way they wish to run their own business?

To every one – particularly the geniuses calling themselves “progressive writers and poets” – echoing this load of nonsense: are you crazy or stupid?

Of course, it’s entirely possible you are both, but which one are you MORE?

I’m not going to deny that Amazon is an 800 lb gorilla or that Amazon is a corporation.  Of course that last, for most of you, is enough to consider them eeeeeevil.  That is because most of you are either college students or are living like college students in your parents’ basement, from stolen cheetos.  (Okay, some of you are also living in the insulated ghettos of academia and/or media, where no knowledge of business need intrude.)  The horrible news I have for you is that I can guarantee most of your favorite writers (unless they’re peers, living in basements next to yours) are corporations.  We incorporate as a way to cut down on the burden our tax code imposes on the self employed.  I, myself, am part of a corporation.  Weirdly, I haven’t noticed any marked increase of evil since I became so.

Now I’ll agree with you that all corporations when they get massive become … odd.  This is a function of ALL human institutions when they get big enough.  Keep that point in mind, we’ll come back to it.

Having watched as the large corporation my husband worked for throughout the nineties went through weird purges and personality cult phases, cut out research and development when they most needed it or made absolutely asinine moves, I came to the conclusion any human bureaucracy grown large enough behaves much like the ancient Roman Empire or a Communist country.  When a personality is purged, for instance, everyone he promoted is struck down or laid off, regardless of whether he’s needed or not.  And periodically the edicts from above make about as much sense as going off with the legions to fight Neptune.

Has Amazon reached this point yet?  Weirdly, no.  So far Amazon is keeping “with it” in the sense that the decisions it has made have benefited its business, which, btw, is the goal of any commercial enterprise, corporation or not.  In the process and probably not deliberately – but as a result of the fact that New York Publishing has been determined to stay on course to suicide – they have made it possible for people to self publish and to circumvent the gatekeepers which were NOT ONLY picking winners and losers but also effectively dissuading people from reading as a form of entertainment (Look up how print runs have fallen since the seventies.  No, it’s not TV.  News flash:  There was TV in the seventies too.)

Will Amazon reach that point – well, DUH – is it run by humans?  Why, yes, I believe it is.  Yes, at some point Amazon will grow sclerotic and/or in pursuing its own interest will cut out small publishers and Indies – if it finds a business reason to.  Right now it’s hard to imagine what that business reason would be, so I have to assume it would be a sign that it has grown sclerotic.

And when Amazon grows sclerotic, it will present an opportunity for competitors to come up and do something better and faster and, in their turn, become the next Big Evil TM.

IF you think it’s already making mistakes and that its decisions no longer benefit you, then for the love of Mike and all the little angels, start your own competitor.  Exploit what you see as weaknesses on Amazon and go for it.  Trust me, starting a business on the web requires remarkably little investment.  If the lot of you who are posting this nonsense can’t each of you chip in five dollars and get the five thousand or so to start your own model, you don’t have the courage of your convictions.

And don’t come bleating at me that Amazon is too big and you can’t compete with it.  When Amazon started out, big chain bookstores were at the apex of their power and people laughed at Amazon.  “Who wants to buy books online?” they said.  And “Why do they allow everyone to do reviews without credentials?” they said.

No?  You don’t want to do that?  Not surprising.  You’re not creative enough to come up with a competing model, you say?  You need government to curb Amazon’s excesses?

Tread carefully, my sheepies.  Tread very carefully.  Amazon is private property.  (Yes, of its shareholders, and your point is?)  What you’re asking is for an organization that is bigger and therefore MARKEDLY more corrupt than Amazon and whose power is based NOT on getting you to buy anything but on the fact they have police and an army and can throw people in jail, to go and take someone’s property away because you don’t like what they’re doing with it.  Not only will whatever government can/chooses to do to Amazon get so distorted in the end that the law of unintended consequences will make it a nightmare, but it will further weaken property rights in this country.  Places that don’t have property rights also have no other rights.  And you won’t be able to do anything, because government, unlike Amazon, has the power to enforce its edicts, and you can’t REALLY set up a competing government.  (No matter what your courses in revolutionary justice told you.)

So… are you crazy or stupid?  There’s evidence in favor of both.  You’re crazy if you’re repeating this meme to appear cool and hip and you have no clue where it will lead.  You’re stupid if you don’t see where it would lead, should it be successful, is back to the arms of the establishment, where big publishers can pick winners and losers.  Qui bono?  The establishment.  (This will shock you but most traditional publishers are international corporations, btw.) The establishment which could sell crap if it pushed it enough, and which is now losing that ability.  You want to take us back to the bad old days.  And you call yourself progressive.  And the irony hasn’t KILLED you yet.

On the other hand, maybe you’re neither crazy nor stupid.  Maybe you are the kind that publishers would have pushed, and you know that your writing in fact stinks on ice and that this is the only way you can make a living.  In which case, you’re simply venal and hypocritical but perfectly rational.

However, take it from me, that progress to the past for which you hanker would only take you back to a system that had grown unsustainable, which is why Amazon was able to arise.  If you take down Amazon, a hundred Amazons will arise to break your favored oligopoly.

So, darlings, sweeties, difficult as it is, maybe you should strive to have an original thought in your pampered little lives and either learn to write and become good enough to sell in the changed market, or learn to start a business that competes with Amazon.  Or BOTH.

Yes, I know, either goes against everything you’ve learned and will make you stand out from the herd.  But guess what, at best the herd gets sheared in the end.  At worst?  It gets eaten.

Give my way a try instead.  Who knows?  It might even work.

*those of you who read Giovanni Guareschi will know the reference.

** Yes, I’m joking.  At most you make me angry, which means these days you make me rant.  For all I know you find that funny.

 

*Crossposted at According To Hoyt*