Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Convince Yourself of the Lie Already!

I have gone on and on, ad nauseum, about the fact that in a press release, Jeff Bezos of Amazon did not, did NOT say that the online store had sold more e-books than printed books. He did not. I am sick of this error being misquoted everywhere as lazy journalists make the case that what you want, reader, is an e-book. You want it more than you even know.

As I said here, this error was noted in an article from Slate, but now, in a major new article making the rounds, it appears again!

Andrew Rice's New York Magazine article on Barnes & Noble offers an interesting and fairly in-dept look at what exactly is happening right now in the major offices, and amongst major shareholders of the bookselling giant. But Rice states outright:

Amazon launched the Kindle in November 2007, and Barnes & Noble has been trying to play catch-up ever since. It introduced the Nook last October. After a bumpy rollout, it has begun to make inroads with book buyers, and the company says the Nook is now its best-selling product. Still, Barnes & Noble is running far behind Amazon, which claims a 70 to 80 percent market share. Earlier this summer, Amazon announced that it now sells more e-books than physical books.

Can anyone see the problem? I've put it in bold so it really pops.

Amazon is not selling more e-books than physical books, just more e-books than hardcover books. This is a much different fact!

It's particularly irritating to see this error appear when journalists are discussing the supposedly inevitable move from books to gadgets, as Rice is doing here in the case of B&N. At B&N, similar to what has happened at Amazon (as recounted in part in Ted Striphas' fascinating book, The Late Age of Print), the powers-that-be are being replaced by non-book people - men who have made their fortunes in grocery stores and the Home Shopping Network - who clearly have plans to expand the bookstore's offerings. Says the new CEO of B&N, William Lynch, as quoted in this article,

“We’re morphing into a retail and technology company. We’re purveyors of content, and I don’t think anybody at this company would say we sell physical books. We do sell that, but that’s not how we define ourselves.”

Get it?

There are still those of us who read our books as books and are not in the market for e-readers and who like going into stores with books - many books, not just a few titles in the corner behind the greeting cards and book ends. As B&N turns into Best Buy, why don't we turn to independent bookstores? I don't hear owners of those misquoting bullshit statistics from that blowhard, Bezos.

And I will try to continue calling out these journalists for this repeated error, refusing to be convinced that I must read electronic books or die. Like many good readers, I can't really stand group-think, or bad research producing inaccurate information.

PS Please find the press release in question from Amazon here. Note the second bullet point under "Highlights." Thank you.

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