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Bestselling authors speak out against big-box discounting

For the past few months, writers at FWR — like those across the literary blogosphere–have been responding to and critiquing the Target-Walmart-Sears-Amazon price-war kerfuffle. Yet outside the publishing and writing worlds, it’s not clear if anyone sees big-box discounting as a Bad Thing; maybe people are too excited about snagging $9 hardback new releases.

John Irving / photo by Everitt Irving

John Irving / photo by Everitt Irving

Recently, though, two big-name authors spoke up about the scary ramifications for emerging writers. In a Big Think talk, John Irving discusses how much harder it is for first-time novelists to get started today, admitting that his first novel would not have been published today. (The half-hour long interview is broken into short, easy-to-navigate snippets and is well worth watching its entirety.)

And John Grisham, author of one of the slashed-price books, commented on the Today Show about the deep discounting, calling it a “disaster in the long term”:

“[The retail price] enables me to make a royalty, the publisher to make a profit and the bookstore to make a profit,” he said. “If a new book is worth $9, we have seriously devalued that book.” […]

Regarding reading books electronically, he told Lauer: “If half of us are going to be doing it, then you’re going to wipe out tons of bookstores and publishers and we’re going to buy it all online.

“I’m probably going to be all right — but the aspiring writers are going to have a very hard time getting published,” he added.

Not a great comfort to the aspiring writer, but if even bestselling authors notice a problem, will the publishing industry pay any attention?

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