Today, someone at the Kindleboards pointed out an extensive article about the rise of Amazon at the US political magazine The Nation.
It’s a good article, but while I was at The Nation site, something else caught my eye, namely this article by Michael Naumann, longtime publishing industry insider and secretary of culture during the Schröder government, about the history of the German fixed book price agreement.
Now it must be said that I’m not the biggest fan of Naumann (we had a very mean name for him during his time as secretary of culture) and that I intensely dislike Cicero, the political magazine where he is editor in chief. And the article is full of self-congratulary bullshit about the German “Kulturnation” and the “wonderfully rich landscape of publishing and independent bookselling” in Germany – yeah, I groaned, too.
And I obviously disagree with Naumann about Amazon and the chainstores as threats to this “rich bookselling landscape”, because the “rich bookselling landscape” did not really serve my needs as a reader who prefers to read English language genre fiction. Hence, the advent of Amazon was a godsend to people like me, who prefer to read imported foreign language books in the original language, because such books were difficult and expensive to come by pre-Amazon. But then I guess Naumann never had that problem, because he used to work for one of Holtzbrinck’s US divisions and probably got the stuff for free that I had to special order or because he lived in Berlin where foreign language books were easier to come by than in Bremen or because he reads in translation.
Oh yes, and libreka does not simply sell e-books from all German publishers. You have to jump through a lot of hoops that are prohibitively expensive for indies like me.
However, if you ignore all the bullshit about the German “Kulturnation” and the rich bookselling and publishing environment and the swipe against the Catholic church (should that bother you), you nonetheless get a good overview over the history and development of the German fixed book price agreement and why it has been upheld even at a time when US publishers are under investigation for doing something similar.
Finally, I have to give Michael Naumann kudos for standing up to the noxious xenophobes at Barnes & Noble and over a Thomas Pynchon novel, too, no less.