The fight between Amazon and Hachette has got a lot of publishers paying attention. But it’s not a scandal. It’s exactly what you would expect when a big five technology company and a big five book group try to dividie profits between themselves.
There is a scandal in publishing though, and it takes place in a part of publishing where self-publishing platforms have economies of scale and publishers are no longer attractive to their traditional partners: game journalism publishing.
The gamergate controversy began after it became clear than a celebrity indie developer (whose game I positively reviewed) slept with at least one journalist after positive coverage of her television show and game. Given the insular nature of game journalism, no action was taken against either the journalist or the developer by the publications in question. A series of public relations disasters — collectively called the gamergate scandal — later brought the disclosure of a secret email group designed to coordinate coverage, harassment of critics of game journalists, and then the weirdest news in publication history…. coordinated editorials of magazines condemning their own readership.
The scandal (journalists like some of their subjects, and fuck them) is not new to anyone familiar with human nature. But the public attacks and mockery of a magazine’s own readership may be unprecedented.
If that wasn’t inexplicable enough, it then followed that game journalists were actually paying for games they were covering to be created. Kotatku, publicly supporting the concept of journalists financially supporting their subjects:
However, Kotaku still allows its writers to directly purchase a game for reviewing, or to back projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, two other, more established platforms for people to crowdsource revenue, despite the fact that both of these transactions also involve the writer financially supporting the developer. Where Kickstarter and over-the-counter purchasing differ from Patreon, according to various writers and figureheads at Kotaku, is that through them you support the product, whereas through Patreon you support the person.
Imagine if Sports Illustrated said that athletes — or football fans — where “over.” Imagine if there were football teams operating because of donations by ESPN columnists.
Imagine if ESPN said they had no obligation to look out for the interests of football fans
The gamergate scandal is the biggest news in publishing, because it shows how publishers operates after the industry can no longer pay grown-ups. Game journalists actually thought it was a good idea — in any sense — to publicly attack and mock their own readers. Game journalists actually have been creating stories — funding favorite designers — in order to give themselves something to write about.
Major book publishers like Hachette, Penguin Random House, and HarperCollins can afford to pay professional salaries to editors, because self-publishing platforms don’t have economies of scale yet. When that day passes, when you see editors at Penguin declare that “readers are over” and the New York Review of Books publishing reviews by books commissioned by the reviewers, book publishing will be as wasted as game journalism is now.