Monday, June 27, 2011

David & Goliath, circa 2011.

The Biblical title sounds a tad clichéd, I admit. Nevertheless, it is particularly apt. The story I’m going to tell you is about the current battle between Indie US booksellers and’s publishing arm. JB Dickey, who owns Seattle Mystery Bookshop situated in the district burned to the ground by the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, has taken up the cudgels for it by refusing to stock the Amazon Mystery Imprint (Thomas & Mercer). A reader (Dave) (‘On Dave’s Thoughts’) writes that Amazon is not a monster-sized Darth Vader out to get the puny Indie Jedi. It is at a marked advantage merely because of a better, more reader-friendly business model conforming to the contemporary lifestyle and benefiting the book shopper. Likewise, a new whodunit author seeking a signing session at SMB urges JB Dickey to go with the flow. All this seems to make eminent sense. Yet it does not gel in my “forest killer” book-loving heart that harks back to the time when remaindering was magically transformed into an honourable pursuit by an astute South Bombay bookseller. In India, this sort of a grim scenario is probably far, far away in the future. My biblioidolatrous heart continues to bleed for the Indie Davids in the US of A. Meanwhile, there’s no denying the disturbing findings of a recent Cornell University investigation. A June 2011 article (‘What Shoppers Don’t Realize About Amazon’s Reviews') reveals the following behind-the-scene secret: “How do you become a top 1,000 Amazon reviewer? A new study by a Cornell professor Trevor Pinch shows that the website's elite reviewers "do not always make independent decisions about which books and other products they write about.... the reviewers in many cases acknowledge that in order to maintain their high rankings and continue to receive free products (one of the perks of being a top reviewer), they have to make surprisingly calculated decisions about what to review and what to say about those product.”