I received, along with every KDP author, Amazon’s email this morning and my immediate response was, “What the everloving f***?”
I’d seen that sort of word salad before – after breaking up with someone. The sort of message that is filled with hurt feelings, false equivalencies, misattributions, and not much else.
It’s an uncharacteristic move by Amazon, who previously seemed to act as if they didn’t care what anyone thought about anything. They’ve never had to explain themselves before. They’ve certainly never pleaded with their customers and suppliers before. Bullied their suppliers, yes. Pleaded with them, not so much.
My second response was, “Why on EARTH would Michael Pietsch care AT ALL about what KDP authors think? The entire point of tradition publishers is NOT to care about what independent authors think.” Then I saw that Amazon had extended its message to readers. That made marginally more sense.
So yes, Amazon has blinked. And I think the reason is that they’ve received a little bit of a reality check. They apparently CAN’T bully all their suppliers. Now Hachette doesn’t represent a ton of Amazon’s (weakening) profits. But Amazon still needs Hachette. They need Hachette not to be an example. Because if one publisher does it, another one will too. And if the Big 5 all do it, the littler ones will too. And if book publishers do it, other suppliers will too.
And Wall Street is watching. Bezos’s leash is a little shorter than it has been.
Why Amazon wrote this note, instead of doing the usual clamming up, will probably always be a mystery. But I kind of prefer Simon Collinson’s theory.
In 1967, I was 2 years old.
My parents lived in Verona, New Jersey – just a couple of miles away from Montclair, where we moved a bit later, and where my youngest daughter spends most of her week at her dad’s house. (Oh, irony. Less than a mile from the house where I spent formative years.)
My father was a Presbyterian minister at Central Presbyterian in Montclair. In 1967, the riots in Newark were going on.
My dad was (and my sister and brother and I are) part Seminole and Blackfoot. His dad and mom grew up passing for pure white. (But also with a weird pride when it became fashionable again.) And Dad’s gut was yanked into the instability in Newark. He wanted to help. Knowing my dad, it wouldn’t surprise me if he felt he had no choice. A hardscrabble, mixed-race kid from Oklahoma City who made it to Harvard Divinity School (where he met my mom), the situation must have been howling at him.
So he went to the traditionally black churches in Newark. And one night he was jacked up against the wall and threatened. Basically, “white people are the problem, why are you here” sort of thing.
Somehow he talked everyone down. Most likely by relating to them – “I grew up hard – my grandmother’s family hated my dad because he was Indian and born in a sod house and of uncertain parentage”. He got out of the church intact. And he blamed no one for the rage. He understood it.
And he kept working. We moved to Southern Delaware, which in the 1970s was plenty racist, I can assure you. I was taught Civil War history by a Byrd from Virginia who insisted on the “states’ rights” line of thinking among a bunch of 10-year-olds – and that was the only Civil War history we received. Everything else I’ve had to learn on my own. But the fact that he dealt corporal punishment exclusively to African American kids was not lost on me.
Dad had plenty to do there. And he did. He counseled other ministers who had crosses burning on their lawns (oh yes, the Klan was alive and well then). He embraced gay rights long before anyone else ever did – counseling families who were breaking up because the father couldn’t live the lie anymore; counseling women who were lonely because they could not confess their relationships or even desires. He was incensed at prejudice, at bigotry, whenever it reared up.
I miss him a lot, because there’s so much to talk about now.
Every month or so, I want to check in on my resolutions.
The Work: Well, I’ve missed a total of three days of blog posts. So…not great.
The Soul: We have been attending church regularly and I have done absolutely nothing about music. So…halfway. Or half-assed.
The Home: I am all over it. Sweeping up, on top of the laundry, getting stroppy about having magazines lying around. I think I’m doing all right here.
The City: Nope. Haven’t touched this one yet.
The Body: This has been working. It’s amazing how productive just logging things – consumption, exercise – can be.
I didn’t know him. I certainly know his work.
Someone so emphatic about the fact (THE FACT) that information should be freely available to those who seek it, someone passionate enough to work on creating RSS and Reddit, someone devoted to children and to love – and someone so young – is a treasure for the world.
That he was 26 and has left so much good work for us to build on is even more phenomenal. As a technologist, I am so profoundly grateful for what Aaron spent his life doing.
But I’m also a mom. And if my baby left me at 26, I don’t know how I would go on.
1. When traveling overseas, a crucial component will always be missing from the power adapter package.
2. Any electronic setup will deteriorate into a spaghetti of wires, even when left utterly alone and untouched.
3. Any electronic setup will deteriorate into a spaghetti of wires, ESPECIALLY when left utterly alone and untouched. And will take out both a manicure and pedicure during untangling.
4. Hair will not dry in time.
5. By the time you board the plane, your nerves will be a wreck and you won’t be able to sleep.