First Amazon came for all the bookstores, and the publishers did not speak up because they were not bookstores (except for Danny Bookstore, but he’s always running his mouth). Then they came for the books, and the publishers did not speak up because they could still package their wares for Kindle, so whatever. But now the publishing industry has another, more personal reason to point to Amazon as the potential engineer of its destruction: Amazon has officially gotten into the publishing business, setting up its own flagship imprint, signing deals with bestselling authors, and even paying Penny Marshall $800,000 to write a memoir, which just goes to show it has money to throw around. And for publishers who were already freaking out about the recently introduced Kindle Fire—which was pitched as an “end-to-end service” that could allow Amazon to develop and promote its own content—the growing confirmation that Amazon is further encroaching on their territory has them shrieking at least an octave higher and 10 decibels louder as they run helter-skelter through the halls.
That mass hysteria also extends to anyone who acts as a middleman between writer and reader—in other words, the entire publishing industry. “Everyone’s afraid of Amazon,” the New York Times quotes one longtime agent as saying, who also notes that even his fellow agents might be in peril because Amazon is allowing authors to publish directly and even access heretofore-guarded Nielsen BookScan sales data, and is therefore “stealing your lunch.” However, while traditional publishers are warily eyeing Amazon’s ability to create bestsellers with just grassroots interest, and even threatening to sue certain authors who have broken their contracts to self-publish with the company, naturally Amazon is remaining modest about its chances of absorbing the entire publishing industry into its rolling corporate Katamari Damacy ($14.99 and eligible for Free Super Saver Shipping). Still, if we were a book agent, we’d probably be writing our names really clearly on our lunch.