“Amazon are evil bastards–I loathe them, I fear them,” said best-selling British author Anthony Horowitz, giving the opening keynote speech at the London Book Fair’s Publishing for Digital Minds conference in London, quickly adding, “but I use them all the time because they’re wonderful and that’s part of the problem.”
Referring to Amazon’s dominance in the book and ebook retail market and the low rate of taxes it pays in the UK (just a few million pounds on over £4 billion of revenue, according to Horowitz), the author of dozens of books was setting the stage for day of speeches, panels and networking at the pre-London Book Fair conference for digital publishing executives. Little subtlety was used, evidenced by his candid remarks regarding Amazon.
He described the decline of physical bookstores in the U.S. and UK, headlining with the demise of the Borders chain in the U.S. He also described the swift rise of ebooks, primarily in the U.S. and described it as an “opportunity” for the book publishing industry to greatly expand its audience and to reach a new generation of readers.
Horowitz also spent time talking about the precarious position many publishers find themselves in, their business models being disrupted by the rise of self-publishing and the changing retail landscape. Despite knowing that he could get a higher percentage of sales from his current books if he left his publisher, he said that he needed the support — editing, packaging and marketing and distribution strategy. He also thanked his publisher for sticking with him through his early, less profitable years as an author.
Horowitz went on to speak passionately about the decline of libraries, especially school libraries, where learning a love of reading begins, he said. And he called on the several hundred British, European and international publishing executives in the room to embrace digital publishing and support reading as a whole, because without a populace that loves reading, publishers will find it harder to be profitable.