Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Reflections On A Blue Tuesday

Driving to the university this morning, I was surprised to find I was feeling blue.

I say “surprised” because I have no reason to be anything but happy. It’s the beginning of April, my favorite month. The first of the bluebonnets dot the hills, my birthday is next Monday--the celebration of which will include my taking two days off. And I had just whizzed past the carpoolers who smugly wave at me each morning from the high-occupancy traffic lane.

In short, all was right with my world. Why should I feel sad?

As I parsed my feelings, I realized that a comment from someone on Lee Goldberg’s Writer’s Life blog had bothered me.

He pointed out that I was published by a major publisher, implying that the fight with Amazon.com wasn’t mine. Then he referred to my disabling the Amazon “buy” button on my blog, asking in effect what was wrong with me. Apparently he thought I was some kind of an idiot for taking an action so opposed to my own self-interest.

His comment was the latest in a series of things that have bothered me recently.

I have been demoralized by the “If it doesn’t impact me, why should I care?” philosophy that seems to prevail today.

I came from the lowest socio-economic strata, but from a family with a strong ethic that neighbors should help each other. My church did a lot of outreach, and we provided assistance to people even poorer than we were. I grew up valuing generosity and proud of America’s reputation as the most generous people on earth.

For some reason, that spirit of support for each other does not appear to be the prevailing sentiment in today’s world. We seem to have grown more insular, more self-absorbed and more intolerant. Unless it involves us directly, we don’t want to be bothered.

I’ve been fortunate to have many people help me in my life. Over the past four years especially, many published authors have given me advice and support as I tried to build my career as a writer.

I have taken my new membership in the writing community very seriously. I’ve made an effort to learn as much as I could and to help where I could.

Amazon’s move to force small presses and e-publishers to use BookSurge will hurt those small businesses. Amazon’s rationale that they are doing this to provide better “customer service” rings hollow.

First, they are enriching one side of their company at the expense of customers in another part of their company. Second, this is the computer age. Amazon has invested in more technology than almost any other retailer. Are they seriously expecting us to believe they can't send an email telling Lightning Source to ship a book that day? Lightning Source already uses Amazon boxes and shipping labels and ships within the same 24 hours Amazon uses as a metric.

Amazon’s open letter smacks of the same sanctimonious doublespeak that has gotten this country into its present predicament here and abroad by emphasizing some points and not telling the whole story on others.

I've also been demoralized by the smug arrogance of some writers in sneering at small publishing operations, e-publishers and self-published writers. It would be so wonderful if--instead of sniping at our fellows--the writing community could band together to support its smallest and weakest members even if we're not the ones impacted by corporate moves . . . yet.

The link for the online petition is here.

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