Thursday, June 12, 2014

Neil Gaiman on Amazon

If you could tell Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon, one thing, what would you say to him?

I think it would be more complicated than just one thing. I think it would be reminding him that Amazon began life as a bookstore online. And then it became an anything store. And now it’s the biggest anything store in the world. And I don’t know if that’s true, but I assume that Amazon could stop selling books tomorrow and it’s bottom line probably wouldn’t hurt that much.
But I would point out that books are special, books are the way we talk to generations that have not turned up yet. The fact that we can actually, essentially communicate with the people in ancient Egypt, people in Rome and Greece, people in ancient Britain, people in New York in the 1920s who can communicate to us and change the way we think, and change the things that we believe.
I think that books are special. Books are sacred. 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 multibillion-dollar book corporations.
When I was a young author, I loved how fast things were changing, and [now] I hate how fast things are changing. When I was a young journalist, I was a book reviewer, which meant I got all the different catalogs from all the different publishers in the U.K. and most of the publishers in the U.K. were little publishers who’d been publishing for 50 years, 80 years, 150 years, 200 years, and they were sometimes in the same building they’d always been. Sometimes the family that ran them was the family whose name was on the masthead.
Allen & Unwin, who were Tolkien’s publishers, the Unwin family was still around. And then by the end of the ’80s, all of these publishers had been eaten by other publishers and they were no longer. All of these little publishers that had their little building they published out of, and their catalog, every now and then had a hit.
So the nature of publishing itself changed. Now you’re watching capitalism in action, and it’s no fun.