We’ve reached the point at which the CEO of Amazon, a giant corporation, in his attempt to integrate bookselling and book production, has perfectly adapted the language of a critique of the cultural sphere that views any claim to “expertise” as a mere mask of prejudice, class, and cultural privilege. Writing in praise of his self-publishing initiative, Jeff Bezos notes that “even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation. . . . Authors that might have been rejected by establishment publishing channels now get their chance in the marketplace. Take a look at the Kindle bestseller list and compare it to the New York Times bestseller list — which is more diverse?” Bezos isn’t talking about Samuel Delany; he’s adopting the sociological analysis of cultural capital and appeals to diversity to validate the commercial success of books like Fifty Shades of Grey, a badly written fantasy of a young woman liberated from her modern freedom through erotic domination by a rich, powerful male. Publishers have responded by reducing the number of their own “well-meaning gatekeepers,” actual editors actually editing books, since quality or standards are deemed less important than a work’s potential appeal to various communities of readers.
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