If you want to add to your February blues, read George Packer’s story in the new issue of the New Yorker, “Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?” (happily, subscription is not required to read this one online).
Among the conclusions? For publishing, the “long-term outlook is discouraging. This is partly because Americans don’t read as many books as they used to — they are too busy doing other things with their devices — but also because of the relentless downward pressure on prices that Amazon enforces.”
Packer quotes Russ Grandinetti, the vice-president of Kindle content who asserts that, because of GoodReads, gatekeepers are no longer necessary, “ ‘Suddenly, we’re not locked into hearing the opinions of a small number of reviewers in newspapers’ ” and adds an unattributed aside, which is presumably Packer’s own, “Professional reviewers are fading out anyway, along with librarians and bookshop owners.”
As an author, Packer has some interest in the fate of gatekeepers. His book, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Macmillan/FSG), was on many 2013 best books lists (including the Amazon editors’ Top 20) and won the National Book Award.