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Amazon and Hachette Battle for the Book Industry

by Kathleen Monin
Colbert advertising Hachette without Amazon

Online superstore Amazon is squabbling with Hachette book group, one of the world’s top five publishers, in a dispute that may define the future of the publishing industry. Customers are raising complaints that books published by Hachette are available at full price instead of the normal discount, are taking many long weeks to ship, or are simply unavailable. These tactics have been heavily discouraging book sales, cutting Hachette’s profits. Hachette has revealed that these inconveniences are strategies instituted by Amazon to instate their dominance over the book industry. Now, Hachette and its authors are calling for their consumers to fight back.

 

The Grip of the Giant

When Borders shut down in 2011, their biggest competitor was not, as many might assume, Barnes and Noble or Books A Million. The book and media superstore stated that their biggest struggle was competition with Amazon, defining the market for books. Already, Amazon has been able to nudge Hachette from its position the number one Digital Book World bestseller for ebooks. Hachette naturally objects strongly to this use of power in the industry, and ads that consumers should have equal access to books. Recently, they said, “By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.” This issue does not solely concern Hachette, as Amazon has the power to treat every book publisher in a similar manner.

 

The Battle Behind the Scenes

While Hachette’s disagreements with Amazon are not new, the issue is only recently coming to light due to confidentiality agreements signed on the part of both businesses. It is only as a result of customer complaints that Hachetter has begun to publically address this issue. Evidently, the dispute centers mainly around the prices of ebooks, and negotiations don’t seem to be going well. The result is inconvenience on the part of the consumer, with Amazon often recommending that customers purchase the titles elsewhere.

 

The Impact on Authors

In the meantime, Hachette authors are beginning to stir their own protests. The book group is a large company, and publishes many authors who are household names. Comedy news anchor Stephen Colbert has three books published by Hachette, and is advertising a new novel published by Hachette on his own website, saying “We are going to prove that I can sell more books than Amazon!” Colbert is also offering downloadable stickers that proudly proclaim “I didn’t buy it on Amazon.” Other big-name authors to object to this treatment are J. K. Rowling, under her pen name Robert Galbraith, who tweeter “There are lots of ways to order (the Robert Galbraith book) #The Silkworm in US, as Amazon kindly suggest.” Other effected authors include names such as Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, and James Patterson.

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