Of Guardians and Dead Sharks

Surprise! It’s another post fisking someone at the Guardian – but not Damien Walters. You’re shocked, aren’t you?

In proof that the rot in the Guardian’s hollowed hallowed halls goes deeper than a politician’s hand in your pocket, I humbly offer this gem by one Suzanne McGee who claims to be a financial journalist. Apparently this doesn’t mean what I thought it meant, based on this column and a scroll through the other columns she has written for the Guardian. She appears to do a mix of fluffy-bunny feminism about you and your money, the financial equivalent of celebrity gossip, and of course the obligatory round of Amazon-hate. (Hat tip to lobo314 for bringing it to my attention – yes, you can blame him for this one instead of Sarah)

So, dear Suzanne’s extended whine article rejoices in the title of “Amazon’s tantrum over books cost me $212 at a real bookstore”. There are no fewer than three egregious fallacies (aka lies) embedded in that single sentence. Okay, it’s not quite as astonishing as the ad line for the 1950s movie The Mummy (“Nameless! Fleshless! Deathless!” – three lies in three words), but it’s close.

Fallacy #1: that Amazon not being able to guarantee timely delivery of Hachette titles is a “tantrum”. There could be any number of reasons for the delivery delays including and not limited to Hachette not supplying the books in the first place; Amazon not being permitted by the terms of their contract with Hachette to keep books in stock for quick delivery; someone somewhere in the supply chain being an ass; someone somewhere in the supply chain being an idiot… You get the point. None of these are “tantrums”.

Fallacy #2: that Amazon is not a “real” bookstore. Amazon is as much a bookstore as Suzanne’s sainted Barnes and Noble. They sell books – more books than Barnes and Noble sells. They arguably do a better job of encouraging people to buy and read books than Barnes and Noble does.

Fallacy #3 is the big whopper, though. It’s the idea that dear Suzanne’s inability to control her impulse spending issues is Amazon’s fault because they forced her to go to Barnes and Noble to buy a book she needed and forced her to spend a boatload (that wasn’t the word I was originally going to use, but I’m trying to be polite here) on impulse buys. This is the kind of behavior I used to see from my younger siblings when they were toddlers: if they tripped and fell, they’d look for the nearest person, point and shout, “Look what you made me do!” So yeah, Amazon is totally to blame for Suzipoos inability to put a leash on her credit card. Not.

It should come as no surprise after an opening like that that the rest of the article demonstrates a similar level of entitlement, ignorance, and yes, glittery hoo haa. I’m not going to make you suffer through a line by line analysis of the whole piece of tripe. Suffice to say that when you have little comments like “Jeff Bezos can afford a $212 refund” you know she’s not only jumped the shark, she’s circled back and played tap-dance with the bugger before glittering it to death.

Of all Suzipoos links, not one of them hits a primary source on the Amazon-Hatchette dispute, much less once that gives Amazon’s perspective. Of course, that would involve research, and she’s far too good for anything like that. Apparently she’s also too good to check out second hand bookstores or even (gasp!) libraries because when her book club wants to read an Evelyn Waugh book, what does she do? You guessed it, she goes and buys it new. Suzipoos, darling, this is an author you can’t help by buying his books new. He’s been pining for the fjords since 1966. His measly share of anything of his that gets reprinted is probably going to the publisher.

Seriously, the woman can’t control herself in a bookstore and wants to blame Amazon for it. She calls herself a financial journalist but shows no sign she knows anything about the price fixing suit (and believe me, the little whispers that are going around about the real reason all the publishers caved being that they knew their bookkeeping wouldn’t survive a forensic audit are true. The publishing industry’s bookkeeping practices haven’t hit the 20th century yet, much less the 21st. Even if everyone involved was scrupulously honest, they wouldn’t survive a forensic audit) or contract law.

That shark she jumped? It’s dead, Jim.


  1. Years ago – and I’m thinking this is back when the now-highschooler was a baby – I could walk into a bookstore and know that it would be a big chunk of money. Then, slowly, it became less and less and finally I found myself walking out with nothing in my hands, trip after trip. It culminated in a conversation the other day with my First Reader, as we had the time, and were literally in the same plaza with a Barnes and Nobles. Neither of us really wanted to go into it. I sort of did, in a reflexive ‘bookstore!’ sort of way, but he really didn’t want to bother. We don’t need any books right now, if we do want a book for whatever reason (research!) I order it from Amazon. Saves me time, money, and hassle. Do I impulse purchase on Amazon? Oh, heck yes. I have a pair of books on my desk right now that were completely impulsive. Justified, with thought, but at the time I clicked… Anyway, it’s unlikely I could have found them at my local B&N. I don’t read mainstream like Evelyn Waugh.

    1. Yeah, I still have an impulsive ‘Ooh, bookstore!’ urge to go in, but of late I’ve found myself able to resist because prices.

      Book prices (set by tradpub houses) in brick and mortar bookstores are going to kill the tradpublishing industry more than Amazon or any of its’ equivalents ever will.

      1. Prices are obscene – *especially* in Australia. When it’s cheaper to buy a dozen paperbacks from Amazon *and* pay almost the same amount for shipping than it would be to buy the same books in Australia (if they’re even available, which is… er… not all that likely), well… Amazon gets quite a lot of customers that way.

      2. For me that happens mostly with used books stores now. I love old translations, especially of mysteries, up to about the 50’s. There are a few pretty good Finnish writers from that era too, but unless their last name is ‘Waltari’ (Sinuhe was a big hit, at least for a Finnish writer, they even made a movie of it in Hollywood in the 50’s) their print runs were small enough that they are both hard to find and tend to be expensive if you find them. But the translations of then popular American and English writers are more easily found, and the language is… well, for some reason I often enjoy reading it better than I like reading modern Finnish. So just get off my lawn already (even if I wasn’t even born when that type of language was still considered the only way for a civilized person to speak 🙂 ).

    2. I read damn near anything and everything (I refuse to keep books in the bathroom because I’d never leave, and have been known to read joke toilet paper), but these days when The Husband and I need to kill a bit of time it’s “Shall we be disappointed by Barnes and Noble?” – and we usually are.

      1. Hell the bathroom is one of my favorite places to read. Especially when I’m having problems. Relax the Mind and Relax the bowels…*runs*

        1. I used to read in sauna. Kills the book, usually, so I took ones which already were falling apart or water damaged or something. Used books stores and their bargain or free books bins…

        1. I’m not all that certain anyone at the Guardian even knows what actual journalism is. Maybe the janitor?

  2. “Suzipoos, darling, this is an author you can’t help by buying his books new. He’s been pining for the fjords since 1966. His measly share of anything of his that gets reprinted is probably going to the publisher.”

    Oh, Waugh is me . . .


  3. *snort* Amazon and their ebook prices are worse on my impulse buy jolt of ‘ooh, shiny’, but I restrain myself anyway. Latest Amazon purchases? The books being book-bombed at MHN (because a trilogy at less than 7AUD is worth it!), Bad Penny, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Million Dollar Productivity (which, I should note, is a DELIGHT to read. Especially where he snorts about the so-called gatekeepers of literachoor.)

    Have a giggle because a customer decided to be humorous despite a very bad billing mistake, and there are ebook links there as well.

      1. *giggles* bookburger XD

        Yeah, the links are on that page, and I put up links on the Devart blog.

        ~_~ Currently working on so many different projects~!!!!!!!!!! (Site overhaul, book reformatting and edit check, painting graphics for the site, cover for my short, Sparrowind and writing in there somewhere…!

        Never rains but it pours.

  4. One of the big highlights when I was a kid, was when my mother took us to Pasadena to visit the grandparents, and we’d stop in at Vroman’s on Colorado – it’s still in existence – and it was a huge bookstore for the time before the mega-big-bookstore chains. The top floor was devoted to paperbacks, and I would zip upstairs with $10 saved from my allowance and Christmas/birthday money and splash out. I still have many of those books purchased then – priced at 25, or 35, or 50 cents. The thick books were 95 cents or even a whole dollar. I’d come out with a stack of books and change from the $10.
    I still can splash out on books, but they are from Amazon and usually used.

    1. Oh, I’m a menace in a really good used bookstore – the kind that’s got a bit of everything and will take orders of the “We’ll put one aside for you and call when we get one” variety.

      Alas, it’s been a while since there’s been one of those anywhere near me – but my bank balance probably appreciates that.

      1. I prefer Better World Books- 3.98-4.98 for most fiction and a lot of non-fiction and free postage. They say free shipping worldwide. Then, I can buy kibble without worrying about the price of reading and take the books to the local free library and introduce new writers to readers for peanuts.

        1. I like used bookstores. the used chain I mentioned in my snark has 3 stores nearby that I visit on a regular or at least semi regular basis. The one closest gets a visit every week and a half///or thereabouts. For that that silly twit spent at B&N I could have walked out with a boxload or two of ohhh..40 books hardcover and mass market alike, easy.

      2. And then there’s Glennis leBlanc, who appears to have pacts with the devil and who can find ans sell you any book you’ve ever vaguely heard mentioned as sounding slightly interesting.

  5. There is a reason I’m wondering if the Guardian Media Group or the Scott Trust has any interest in one of the big five publishing companies, or if one of their editors or managers has personal ties with one of the editors or managers at one of the big five.

  6. I’d actually like to be nervous how much I’d spend if I went to a B&N. I haven’t even steped in one for at least a year (and I’m thinking it could be more like 2 or 3) and the last times I did I found myself having to hunt to find ANYTHING that I wanted to read.

    Amazon OTOH is dangerous. Esp the 1 click kindle thing.

    PS if you want value for money the Peter F Hamilton Void trilogy bundle on kindle is $18. Given that each of these books is about the size of two-three normal books you’re getting a heck of a deal.

    1. Oh, hell yes. I sometimes find something worthwhile at B&N, but usually it’s just more of the same crap that didn’t interest me last time I was there.

  7. There are 2 surviving B&N stores within 20 miles of my house. I go there to browse (particularly technical books), and to see what’s new on the SF/Fantasy shelves. But I invariably just photo the cover and get it on Amazon (or from my library). Whattayaknow – amazon seems to almost always have the lowest price. Those capitalist Bast**ds.

  8. Yes, Yes. It’s all MY fault you can’t control your impulse to snark, any better than I can. 😛

    And by all means for line by line..feel free boys and girls to go to my place. Okay not EXACTLY line by line. though there are a few of those in there. Mostly paragraph or so by paragraph.

  9. … T.L. Knighton linked this to me. The next Hugo winner? ‘Cuz that’d make as much sense as this so called ‘reporter’s’ blaming of Amazon.

    Someone who writes worse than Clamps, according to T.L.

    I kinda can’t make myself look at the sample. I did look at the comments to the reviews… and oiiiiii.

  10. Sort of OT. What is a “good liberal” like the reporter doing reading a horrible book like “Scoop”? According to a review at a public library.

    “Although the story is mildly funny, the book is shockingly racist. It was written at a time when these words and attitudes were acceptable, but does not belong on the shelves anymore. It should be archived and available only to anyone specifically asking for this author.”

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