American Booksellers Association Protest Obama Over Kindle Singles Interview, Amazon Support
President Obama is no stranger to controversy--it's the nature of his job. Everything he says is certain to raise ire with a particular group or organization, and his recent comments on the state of journalism in America are no exception.
It used to be there were local newspapers everywhere. If you wanted to be a journalist, you could really make a good living working for your hometown paper. Now you have a few newspapers that make a profit because they are national brands, and journalists are having to scramble to piece together a living, in some cases as freelancers and without the same benefits that they had in a regular job for a paper. What’s true in journalism is true in manufacturing and is true in retail. What we have to recognize is that those old times aren’t coming back.
There does seem to be some resignation in his words—a waving of the white flag rather than a rallying cry to save the local newspaper. However, I don't think Obama's being opinionated here, but merely stating the facts: it is hard to get work as a writer these days.
Much of the controversy surrounding the President's remarks arises not from his words, but rather the fact he's talking to Amazon in the first place. Independent booksellers see this interview and Obama's recent speech at an Amazon fulfillment center as a slap in the face, since the online retailer is almost unanimously hated among local bookstore owners. Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, released a statement criticizing Obama's actions. In it, he said:
While Amazon may make news by touting the creation of some 7,000 new warehouse jobs (many of which are seasonal), what is woefully underreported is the number of jobs its practices have cost the economy … For you to highlight Amazon as a job creator strikes us as greatly misguided. As you’ve noted so often, small businesses are the engines of the economy. When a small business fails and closes its doors, this has a ripple effect at both a local and a national level. Jobs are lost, workers lose healthcare and seek unemployment insurance, and purchasing decreases.
This is certainly a sticky situation, with no real easy answers. Amazon does pose a threat to indie booksellers, but customers clearly like their cheap prices and convenience, and we may have to accept that the company isn't going away any time soon.
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