While accepting an award for distinguished contribution to American letters at the National Book Awards Wednesday night, science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin took advantage of a crowd full of literary titans to call out dangers to literature and writing as she sees them. Her most incendiary thoughts were reserved for the recent pricing disagreements between publisher Hachette Book Group and online retail giant Amazon.
Even after the awards, Lynne Martin, the associate publisher at Riverhead books raved about the speech telling NPR's Petra Mayer that Le Guin's speech was "the most ferocious speech ever given at the National Book Awards."
Here's what Le Guin had to say:
"Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write."
You can read the whole of LeGuin's short but powerful speech at the site of Parker Higgins.