Amazon’s latest snack: an ALA email newsletter

Tue 25 Jan 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

The other day when Booklist Online Exclusives monthly newsletter came in it announced that Amazon is now sponsoring them. Erk. There’s no escape!

The newsletter now has a ton of links to Amazon, a bestseller list, and a new section (“Sponsored Content”) that gives a “profile of an author published by either AmazonEncore or AmazonCrossing.” Does this mean the newsletter has just lost its editorial independence?

Does sponsoring one measly newsletter (or it could be more for all I know) mean Amazon has any influence over the ALA? Probably not. The ALA is huge. But this recent article on college applications in the Times (“applicants to a parent’s alma mater had, on average, seven times the odds of admission of nonlegacy applicants”) which says money can have a direct influence outcome does give pause for thought.

Recently Amazon have been throwing money at as many literary nonprofits and organizations as they can and everyone is clamoring for it because fundraising, which is always difficult, is even harder right now.

Mostly, these sponsorships are cheap PR for Amazon. Slate wrote about this at some point and pointed out Amazon don’t say how much they give nor how often. Did they give a grant to 826 Seattle once, or is it annual? The application is right there on that page but they can’t “respond individually to each request.” Transparency and Amazon never go hand in hand.

Part of me is irked that they screw publishers harder than anyone else on one side then get props in the literary field for supporting some great organizations. Including, ironically, some nonprofit publishers. Nice to know that the extra % they demand every year is going back to support their books.

But this is just me worrying about opening another email and seeing it too has been taken over by Amazon. I know they can’t take over everything but it sure feels they’re trying to sometimes.

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