Amazon and Hachette duke it out

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In the beginning there was no coverage. Amazon and the Hachette Book Group started negotiating over new e-book prices. Then something strange happened.

Some German authors noticed that Amazon seemed to be taking a long time to ship their books. It turned out that the action was part of negotiations over e-book prices and how the revenue from e-book sales would be split.

That thrust the negotiations and Amazon’s tactics into the public eye. David Carr’s article in the New York Times is a good summary of the whole mess. Most of the media stories have cast Amazon as the big bully picking on the poor publisher, even though the publisher is one of the largest in the world. That’s one of the things I find interesting about the whole dust-up.

For a long time, Amazon has gotten good press. When Amazon brought down physical book prices, while increasing both selection and the ease of purchasing, we cheered.

The publishers haven’t looked so good. In 2012 the US Justice Department sued Apple and three publishers, including Hachette for conspiring to raise e-book prices. Apple and the publishers settled with the Justice Department.

It also seems to me that what’s happening is normal whenever technology or an outside force transforms any industry. It’s publishing’s turn.

So why all the fuss? I know there are real issues here, but mostly I think what we’ve got is some grand theater.  What do you think?  To help you sort things out, I offer the following selection of articles.

From Omar El Akkad: Digital dilemma: Amazon pushes to package up more profit
“Amazon’s relationship with the traditional gatekeepers of the content it sells – publishers, record companies, movie studios – has never been straightforward. On one hand, the world’s most powerful online retailer relies on those companies for the bulk of its digital media offerings – one of the fastest-growing product categories in its catalogue. But at the same time, Amazon is under growing pressure to finally start turning its massive customer base into equally massive profits. That means, in turn, that the retailer is under similar pressure to squeeze its content partners even harder for lower prices. Or perhaps, if that doesn’t work, side-step them entirely.”

From Alex Dalenberg: Is Jeff Bezos making a mistake in Amazon’s war against Hachette?
“Jeff Bezos is a canny an operator as there is in business, but his company’s hardball tactics may risk alienating customers.”

From The Economist: The book trade: Burying the Hachette
“Amazon plays tough with publishers over e-book prices”

From Ilan Mochari: Amazon-Hachette Fight: Is Amazon Really the Bad Guy?
“When a supplier and retailer are at odds over terms, it’s usually not headline news. Welcome to the rarified world of publishing.”

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