July 1, 2014

The NYPL is hosting a roundtable discussion about Amazon and the book industry tonight


NYPL exteriorTonight at 7PM, the New York Public Library will be hosting an event about Amazon and the book industry, “Amazon: Business as Usual?” The event will feature bestselling Hachette author James Patterson, Grove/Atlantic publisher Morgan Entrekin, attorney and eMusic.com founder Bob KohnThe Master Switch author Tim Wu, and attorney, self-publishing blogger David Vandagriff. Literary agent Tina Bennett will moderate. 

While the Amazon/Hachette dispute will certainly be at the center of the discussion, the NYPL promises a wide-ranging conversation about capitalism, free speech, technology and the future of the publishing industry:

In April 2014, Amazon and Hachette locked horns in what has become a very public, and still ongoing, battle over contract negotiations. After the online retailer removed the pre-order option, imposed shipping delays, and slashed discounts on the book publisher’s titles, the reaction against Amazon was swift and fierce. But the story of the Amazon-Hachette dispute is anything but simple, and raises critical questions about the future of the book publishing industry. What is really at stake for the companies, authors and readers? What larger issues of free-market capitalism and free speech are at play? And what does the Amazon-Hachette dispute reveal about the future of the publishing industry in the age of e-books?

Interestingly, the anti-Amazon crowd appears to have a solid majority on the panel. Patterson has been admirably vocal about Amazon and its dispute with Hachette and is planning on giving $1 million to independent bookstores in 2014. While I couldn’t find any public comments on Amazon from the perceptive Morgan Entrekin, one would expect one publisher to stick up for another. And last month Kohn wrote a sharp piece for The New York Times, in which he described Amazon as a “monopsony” that publishers should consider removing their titles from. On the other side of the aisle is Vandagriff, who blogs under the moniker “Passive Guy,” as vociferously pro-Amazon as we are anti-Amazon. That leaves Wu as the only real wild card, though one expects he is there in part as an expert on information systems, disruption, and social networks. Wu is also the 2014 Democratic nominee for for Lieutenant Governor of New York.

The event will take place at the New York Public Library’s main branch. It can also be livestreamed here.


Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.