Amazon.com’s announcement that it is acquiring Marshall Cavendish‘s trade book department is making me think again about last week’s blogosphere discussion re bloggers and publishers and review copies. In that conversation, Pam Coughlan (Mother Reader), rightfully decrying William Morrow’s graceless attempts to make bloggers jump through hoops in order to receive free ARCs, asked, “Can you imagine them [trying this with] Horn Book or The NYTimes?”
Well, no, I can’t imagine William Morrow (or, more exactly, the children’s-book imprints of HarperCollins) doing this, because they know Horn Book reviews sell books and look good excerpted in advertisements. Aside from their sheer numbers, I think the reason bloggers have trouble with publishers is that bloggers generally insist upon reviewing what they want, how they want and when they want, putting the publisher in the position of sending out hundreds of ARCs with no idea of what effect it will have. With us, if the book is hardcover and from a U.S. publisher listed in LMP, they know they will get a review from either the Magazine or the Guide, and that the Magazine almost always reviews books within a two month window either side of pub date. I sympathize with bloggers, who naturally don’t want to just be an arm of a publisher’s marketing department, but I can also see why publishers want some structure. And while this is not going to make me any friends, I have observed too many blogs more than eager to uncritically pass along marketing messages and campaigns, which has the unfortunate effect of changing the playing field for everybody else.
But back to Pam’s point, I wonder if the Horn Book will be receiving review copies from Cavendish/Amazon, since Amazon has long insisted that customer reviews are more effective in selling products on their site than are professional reviews. The problem with banishing the gatekeepers is that you also banish the gatekeepers: we open gates far more often than we close them.
I have more questions. The press release linked above talks avidly (and stupidly) about how good Gennady Spirin’s pictures are going to look on a Kindle Fire (the screen is too small for picture books), but what is Amazon’s commitment to print? What is their commitment to libraries and schools, the Horn Book’s (and, heretofore, Marshall Cavendish’s) primary audience? Will their books be available from sources besides Amazon? (Will other booksellers carry them?) What is with Amazon’s discounting “list” prices of books they publish and sell? Give your answers or add your questions in the comments.