SEATTLE — Satan in Seattle, as the walking wounded of the book business describe Amazon.com, continues to expand from the shores of Lake Union here, with nearly a dozen new office buildings housing the global nerve center of earth’s largest online retailer.
We hear that one culture must destroy the other. It’s inevitable: the books-to-the-barricades defenders of ideas printed on dead trees will lose all that they love to the soulless digital monolith on Lake Union, with its 164 million customers.
And, knife to the heart, the federal government has now filed antitrust action against Amazon’s foes, which include some of the biggest New York publishers and their partner in digital wordselling, Apple.
But surprise: the apocalypse already came and went, and look who’s standing. One technology, the e-book, the biggest new invention in reading since Gutenberg cranked out a Bible with movable type, changed the world — most likely for better. We have more books, more readers, a bigger audience for words, on pixels or paper.
The problem, for those who are purely reactive, is that publishing as we know it will soon die. And so will bookstores that are no more nimble or creative than a socks ’n’ things in the mall.
I love independent bookstores — the feel, the smell, the randomness. Without the indies, much of America would be even more of a cultural desert. Thus, I was predisposed to believe that Amazon and e-books would drive small stores and paper books to the grave. But the numbers show otherwise
Full essay at The New York Times.