‘The devil that is Amazon’

So earlier this year I’m sitting in the audience at a literary festival, listening to a panel of editors and agents discussing publishing. One of the editors, from a London independent trade publisher, refers – with approving nods from his fellows – to ‘the devil that is Amazon’. 

When it comes to the time for questions, I put up my hand and ask something like this:

It seems to me that as the internet was developing, books enjoyed the great good fortune of being well suited to online retailing and that, as a  result, retailers like Amazon help to keep books trendy. And consumers, even in rural areas, now have far greater access to a books – a vast range of books – than ever before. Is it really appropriate to refer to Amazon as ‘the devil’?

The editor responds with a pretend-sheepish Did-I-say-that? and then replies along the lines of, “Well, no, look, you’re quite right, I mean Amazon is very important to us, our biggest account in fact”. 

I doubt that will stop him saying the same thing, and the others all nodding, next time he’s on a panel. It’s what you say if you’re in publishing – part of the argot, guaranteed to earn a wry laugh.

My question then is: What other industry takes this approach of slagging off their largest account in public? How clever is that?

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