Amazon and bibliodiversity

Amazon and bibliodiversity

Bibliodiversity is the idea (perhaps originated in Chile as bibliodiversidad) which parallels the concept of biodiversity. The argument is that having greater variety available is beneficial.

That seems simple, and there is evidence to support it in biodiversity. If you have a population with relatively little genetic variation, and if there are few species available in an environment, there is great risk if something changes (a disease arises, a natural disaster, climate change…). A recent example would be DFTD (Devil Facial Tumor Disease). I’ve been saddened to read about it: Tasmanian devils (yes, they are real animals, not just a cartoon) bite each other on the face socially. They are able to transmit what becomes cancerous tumors (I was surprised to see a contagious cancer, even if that isn’t exactly what’s happening) which prove fatal.

 It’s been devastating to the wild population: I’ve seen estimates of a 90% total loss, and many populations have reportedly been completely lost. This has happened in just a couple of decades.

Some devils, though, have shown resistance…very few, but they do seem to be genetically different.

If these marsupial predators were all the same, it would probably have been over already. Thanks to diversity within the population, it’s possible the species will survive in the wild.

I’ve read a couple of articles recently citing Amazon as significantly reducing bibliodiversity, with the implication that they could be the cause of a least a massive die-off in publishing.

One concern was about Amazon changing the way the Buy button works, where a small publisher might not find that its own book is the first option for buyers (it might be a third-party seller). I wrote about that one about three weeks ago here:

HuffPo article: Amazon is “potentially terrorizing”

The other one is another

HuffPo article

by Maddie Crum.

Here’s the title: “Amazon’s Grip On The Book World Could Silence The Stories That Matter”.

This one focuses on one of Amazon’s new brick-and-mortar bookstores, and how the store use rankings from the Amazon website, in part, to determine which books appear in the store.

The article is correct, in my experience, that classic literature tends to be lower rated than now, popular books. Most people just don’t go back and rate a book they read years ago.

That, in turn, Crum suggests could lead to a concentration of titles.

My opinion?

Nobody else has done more to increase bibliodiversity in the past ten years than Amazon.

E-books existed in a minor way before the Kindle launched in 2007, but they exploded after that.

Amazon introduced its own digital publishing platform, and thousands of people have published books to it on all kinds of topics. It’s hard to imagine that readers have ever had more options and had the ability to hear more voices. The barrier to entry is so much lower.

There are well over FIVE MILLION titles in the USA Kindle store…no physical bookstore comes close that.

No, authors and bibliodiversity are doing fine.

What is being hurt? Traditional publishing of paperbooks, especially by small publishers.

When you needed a book factory to get a book to readers, and when physical bookstores needed to carry you (I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager), authors needed the publishers to crack the market.

Now, that’s not necessary…which reduces the need for publishers, so some extent.

There may be less…um…publishersity, I guess.

Publishers have definitely added value. They’ve discovered authors, nurtured them, promoted them, and improve the quality of the books themselves, through editing, lay-out, proof-reading, and promotion.

Some of what publishers traditionally did will shift to other places, including agencies which will edit..and artificial intelligence may eventually play a role.

It may also be that some people won’t be able to  make a living as an author who could do so before…and that arguably could mean fewer books…as could the loss of some publishers.

However, that will be more than offset by authors who can make a living as indies (independently published authors).

Look at who is quoted in articles decrying Amazon’s practices…they will tend to be people who are in the space between authors and readers. That’s what Amazon really threatens, and it will seriously remold the experience of discovery and cash flow.

Fewer books and less diversity, though? That seems unlikely to me.

What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

My current Amazon Giveaways

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

the award-winning, highly-rated mystery by my sibling, Kris Calvin!


  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Kris Calvin on Amazon (to my knowledge, all that you’ll get is a notification when Kris publishes a new book in the Kindle store, although I don’t know that for sure…that’s all I’ve ever seen for authors I follow, I think. Kris is working on the second book in the Maren Kane mystery series.
Start:May 20, 2017 5:20 AM PDT
End:May 27, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Thanks to the hundreds of people who have entered my previous giveaways for a chance to win Kris’ book! I don’t benefit directly from Kris’ book, although we have had a lot of conversations about it. 🙂

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT


Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)


Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 







2 Responses to “Amazon and bibliodiversity”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    My view on this (and your previous HuffPo post) is that what we have here is analogous to taxi drivers complaining about Uber. Traditional publishers are often driven by their editorial staffs which cross subsidize the profits generated by a few blockbusters to foster the publishing of “curated” material that these editors think ought to be of value to society. I don’t buy it.
    If you’ve got something of value to contribute, you shouldn’t have to hide behind accounting tricks. Today any putative author who has a viewpoint to push can easily do so through KDP no agents, editors, or traditional publishers required. The view that Amazon’s “buy” button policies are going to put smaller publishers out of business may be true, but so what? Where does it say that there should be place at the table for a certain class of enterprises that technology is making obsolete? Those disappearing backlists? Some authors who have regained rights to their older titles publish them through KDP at low prices, yet because of the extreme elasticity of demand for books, actually find themselves selling more (and making more) than when those titles were first traditionally published.
    To my mind there’s nothing special about traditional publishers (big or small) if you can’t live in the market, then get out of the kitchen (mixed metaphor I know :grin).
    BTW what Amazon is now doing with the “buy” button for books, is something they have been doing for non-book merchandise for some time: there are times when a search for a product will serve up a 3P item — even when there is an item from Amazon that satisfies the search.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I understand…the marketplace is a marketplace. There are laws about certain kinds of unfair anticompetitive actions, but if someone legitimately outcompetes you, that’s what happens.

      I don’t know if you remember my story from more than six years ago now, about a bookstore preserved as a tourist attraction:

      Re-reading it today, I probably underestimated the replacement tech (I didn’t consider augmented or virtual reality instead of phones), but I think it still works. 🙂

      The same sort of thing might be true for unimaginative traditional publishers, but I think imaginative ones can succeed, just like imaginative small bookstores can. Amazon was certainly not Goliath when it started!

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