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Amazon Escalates Its Battle Against Publishers 218

Posted by Soulskill
from the digital-walmart dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "Amazon, under fire in much of the literary community for energetically discouraging customers from buying books from the publisher Hachette, has abruptly escalated the battle. The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J.K. Rowling's new novel. The paperback edition of Brad Stone's The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon — a book Amazon disliked so much it denounced it — is suddenly listed as 'unavailable.' In some cases, even the pages promoting the books have disappeared. Anne Rivers Siddons's new novel, The Girls of August, coming in July, no longer has a page for the physical book or even the Kindle edition. Only the audio edition is still being sold (for more than $60). Otherwise it is as if it did not exist. Amazon is also flexing its muscles in Germany, delaying deliveries of books issued by Bonnier, a major publisher."
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Amazon Escalates Its Battle Against Publishers

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  • by maliqua (1316471) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:15PM (#47077485)

    Think they're flexing their muscles now just wait for the drones!

  • Paywalls (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Kamineko (851857)

    Two links, both to paywalled articles.

    Fantastic.

    • Two links, both to paywalled articles.

      Fantastic.

      Weird. Both Times articles opened fine for me. I'm in the US, and I don't have an NYT subscription.

      • by Kremmy (793693)
        It doesn't always show the paywall, they've put in a few workarounds here and there so that people following links get the content. It's just more dishonesty in their attempts to monetize a website.
        They also seem to send daily ads out pressuring you to get a subscription to their website, if you've given them your e-mail.
        I wish content providers trying to sell their content would focus on their content instead of the money. Else what the heck are you selling?
        • I don't necessarily see that putting in workarounds that allow a few pageviews a month for a non-paying user as being dishonest - it's advertising. 'If you like these articles, we have more that you would need to pay for' - and they usually tell you exactly that when you hit the free limit.

        • Use Incognito Mode (Chrome) or Private Browsing (Firefox). The paywall is a dumb cookie sensor.
      • Two links, both to paywalled articles.

        Fantastic.

        Weird. Both Times articles opened fine for me. I'm in the US, and I don't have an NYT subscription.

        You get a couple (5, IIRC) free articles A month.

        They enforce it via cookie, so it's pretty trivial to work around.

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:22PM (#47077591)
    Next, we'll hear he's patented not selling books on the Internet.
    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      I wonder how all this will affect my upcoming book Why Jeff Bezos Is More Awesome Than Elon Musk (working title).

  • by fermion (181285) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:23PM (#47077605) Homepage Journal
    Of selling books, often below their cost, and providing a secure system(Kindle DRM) for authors to sell e books. While there is certainly a downward pressure on the price of books due to Amazon, the reality is that authors probably sell a hell of lot more books because of Amazon. I do not see how a publisher can complain. After all, if Amazon is not providing a service, they are free to sell physical books through Barnes and Noble, for instance, as well as sell unencumbered e-books through any number of online sources. They can digitally mark each e-book for each customer, and litigate those that resell or otherwise pirate.

    I happily go to O'Reilly and pay $40 for a physical and unencumbered PDF copy of a book. What publishers aren't doing is moving with market forces. The value of book is not what it used to be. The average American is not making what was the previous expectation. We are in a deflationary period. Amazon is under pressure to show a better return on investment. They do not have to sell products when the supplier wants excessive value. It is like a restaurant not selling Coca Cola products. SOme don't because Pepsi cuts a better deal.

    • True. But Amazon cannot blackmail the publisher using its marketing clout either. It would be like Microsoft making it so Windows will not run a certain company's software.

      • You purchase windows to install on your computer, but you don't purchase amazon, so its a little different. It would be more like Walmart not selling your product because you don't agree to their rock bottom pricing they want to force on you. Which is also an issue.
    • An excellent point!

      Amazon doesn't sell e/books. They provide a service for reading e/books. In some countries e/books are even taxed as a service instead of a physical good, at a higher rate.

      There is a push now to charge higher tax only for service-type e/books (DRM-ladden, restricted to device/user, not resellable) and lower tax for proper e/books (no DRM, at most a watermark, can be passed around). It would not only be fair, but also appropriately reflect what you are actually paying for.

    • Keep in mind that most anti-trust violations are only anti-trust violations if a company with real market power does them. It was an anti-trust issue for IBM to write the Operating System on it's first PC, but it wasn't an anti-trust issue when Apple/Commodore/Osborn/etc. all did the same damn thing. Later on Apple bundling Safari with Mac OS, but not including any other options by default; was legally fine. But in Europe Microsoft gets into a whole hell of a lot of trouble if it doesn't offer people the op

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Of course the publisher complains they are middle men, trying to hide the fact of how little they whilst they get the bulk of the profits. It is pretty obvious Amazon wants to become the publisher, via this method it can further reduce the price of books and increase sales whilst also increasing profits simply by taking the publishers cut. All Amazon has to do is contract out printing of the books. So this is all corporate manoeuvring and putting pressure on the authors to skip their publishers and go dire

    • by rochrist (844809)
      Excessive value? The impression I get around here is that excessive value for a book is pretty much any positive number.
  • Thank God Apple's e-book "monopoly" was crushed! Now we don't have to worry about there being a single, monolithic, insane entity controlling the entire marketplace dictating terms with impunity to the publishers.....yeah...good thing...

    • You're comparing Apples and Crocodiles. Apple rigged prices with the collusion of the major publishers which is illegal.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        You're comparing Apples and Crocodiles. Apple rigged prices with the collusion of the major publishers which is illegal.

        I think you are confused. Do you work at the DOJ by any chance. The agency model removed control over pricing from the vendor and gave it to the publishers. That means that Apple had no control over pricing.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          That means that Apple had no control over pricing.

          No, that presumably meant Apple's competitors couldn't sell books for less than Apple.

          • No, that presumably meant Apple's competitors couldn't sell books for less than Apple.

            It could also be interpreted as the publisher couldn't charge more to iTune users than they do anywhere else. The publisher still set the price.

  • Isn't this a classic case of a bad business move by a big business creating incentives for other firms to fill that market need? Am I missing something? Sure, it's not great for the publisher in question, but heck - there is going to be a lot of money made by whomever DOES sell JK Rowling's next book.
    • Amazon will sell you her book. It'll just take weeks and weeks to get to your House. That's what Hachette is complaining about. Amazon makes it really inconvenient to buy Hachette books, which Hachette's authors say is reducing their sales.

      I suspect what's gonna happen is that Amazon will cave immediately to avoid further bad PR, which will mean the DoJ will conclude there's nothing to investigate.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:26PM (#47077649)

    Apple and the publishers were trying to ensure there was a choice in eBook providers.

    What Amazon is showing is the consequence of allowed, through government action, Amazon to utterly control the online eBook (and just plain Book Book) market.

    Amazon wields way too much power and whatever publishers - and other book vendors - can do in response should be allowed.

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:46PM (#47077883)

      Uh, no. I don't know anyone outside the Jobs Reality Alteration Bubble who didn't see it as a blatant violation of anti-trust laws.

      There are a ton of online book vendors, and Amazon's online print sales are a small fraction of the print market. The majority of books they sell these days are ebooks.

      BTW, wasn't one of Hatchette's recent complaints that Amazon weren't discounting their books enough?

      • by pla (258480)
        There are a ton of online book vendors, and Amazon's online print sales are a small fraction of the print market.

        This. Just about everyone, from governments to publishers to authors to readers, have bitched incessantly about Amazon since they started seriously selling books. I would think this move would make the entirety of Hatchette's vertical market thrilled that Amazon has effectively left their local ballgame.

        But no - Instead, we see the reality of the situation. No one actually wants Amazon ou
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Apple and the publishers were trying to illegally fix prices

      FTFY

    • by lgw (121541)

      Utterly control? There's more than one way to buy a book. Since when has (less that total) censorship resulted in fewer books sales? TFA should really be tagged "Streisand Effect", as I'd never heard of this book before.

  • right up and until the point where you wield monopoly power. In this case, Amazon has hit that point. When you become the market, you have to be the market thus have open access. Sorry, that's the price of success.

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:48PM (#47077899)

      right up and until the point where you wield monopoly power. In this case, Amazon has hit that point.

      Yeah, that's true. I mean, no-one can go to a book store and buy these books, can they? Amazon have a monopoly, and there's nowhere else the publisher can sell these books if Amazon refuse to do so.

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday May 23, 2014 @04:15PM (#47078179)

        There is no way I can go to a Barnes and Nobels to buy books. There aren't two in my city alone, and also their website. There also aren't other general purpose retailers who sell books and tons of other good like Amazon. We certainly don't have 5 Targets, 10 Walmarts, 3 Costcos (and associated websites) in town. There also aren't any local booksellers or anything. And of course you can't buy eBooks from anyone else, certainly not from Apple, who's market capitalization far exceeds Amazon's.

        I think some geeks like the GP need to get out of their house more often.

    • It just wouldnt be slashdot without all of the armchair lawyers. Which bar did you pass, again?

    • by NoKaOi (1415755)

      right up and until the point where you wield monopoly power. In this case, Amazon has hit that point. When you become the market, you have to be the market thus have open access. Sorry, that's the price of success.

      There's a difference between a monopoly where customers have no choice, and a dominant player where most customer's choose to go as a result of that dominant player's success. This is different than an ISP where people literally have no choice. This is different from Microsoft in 2001 where people perceived they had no choice. I doubt most people who buy books from Amazon think it's the only book-seller out there. Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing one way or the other whether Amazon is evil, merely st

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:44PM (#47077861)

    The Passive Voice blog has been covering this [thepassivevoice.com], and apparently Hachette's shipping department is running incredibly far behind on orders. Like ten days or more.

    It sounds like Amazon finally gave up on accepting orders until Hachette catches up, or stops playing games with Amazon, whichever the problem really is.

    • by daremonai (859175)
      Along those same lines, it should be noted that the paperback edition of "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon" will not be out until October 7, 2014, so it's not too surprising it was shown as "unavailable." Actually, if you go to Amazon right now, it does list the paperback edition (http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Store-Jeff-Bezos-Amazon/dp/0593070461/) as available, but it looks like it's only from third-party sellers, who may have mixed up their hardcover and paperback listings. The h
  • Not illegal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rahvin112 (446269) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:48PM (#47077903)

    Amazon is using tried and true business methods here to lower costs by strong arming the producers. As long as they aren't a monopoly (and they aren't unless B&N goes out of business) there is absolutely nothing illegal about what they are doing. In fact it might just lower prices for consumers at the expense of revenue for the publishers and I'm not convinced that's a bad thing.

    Consider their goal is lower prices overall I support their push to force publishers to lower book prices. eBook prices in particular are absurd, publishers took the opportunity to dramatically boost profit margins (I wouldn't be surprised if eBook pricing had boosted profits triple their dead tree version) and I love the idea of Amazon using their size and sales volume as a weapon to bring those prices back in line with dead tree versions. Publishers fuck the authors over just like the music and movie companies and they all deserve a healthy slap and dramatically reduced margins, selling a book shouldn't net more than 10% ROI IMO and should be closer to 3%.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      I wouldn't be surprised if eBook pricing had boosted profits triple their dead tree version

      I believe that's in the right ballpark. A typical ebook agreement seems to give publishers about 75% of the income from an ebook vs 25% to the author, and their ebook prices are often higher than paper book prices.

      Frankly, I'm amused to see the number of people here talking about the poor, put-upon publishers, when those publishers are earning three times as much as the actual writer from an ebook sale. Couldn't poste

      • Frankly, I'm amused to see the number of people here talking about the poor, put-upon publishers, when those publishers are earning three times as much as the actual writer from an ebook sale. Couldn't posters spare a thought for those who actually wrote the book now and again?

        They do;as do the publishers. It starts with the letter F and with the letter U.

    • by janoc (699997)

      It could pretty well be illegal in Europe. Many EU countries have laws banning this sort of tactics as the abuse of the "market power". If you have more than a certain percentage of the market, you are treated as a quasi-monopoly and restrictions apply. These laws are mostly targeted at various retail chains that have abusive terms in their supplier contracts, but it is only a matter of time before this gets applied to Amazon, Google and similar.

      • by SEE (7681)

        Yes, it's one of the fundamental distinctions between the capitalist US and the corporatist EU in anti-trust law. In the US, you are expected to show the business practice harms consumers; in the EU, you merely show it hurts the profits of existing businesses.

        Thus, for example, fixing the price of books is an illegal conspiracy under US law, but mandated by law in Germany.

      • by davecb (6526)

        The US used to have such laws, having suffered from significant monopoly problems in the past. It may be illegal in Canada, but it's arguably illegal everywhere else. If you sell houses in Chatham, you can't refuse to sell a house built by Bill Green, nor refuse to sell a house to Chan Hin Poon, even if you think Bill is an idiot and you hate anyone Chinese (;-))

        Nor can you ask Bill for a kickback.

    • Yeah because Amazon is looking out for you: "Amazon, which is under immense pressure from Wall Street to improve its profit margins, is trying to get better terms on e-books out of Hachette, the smallest of the top five New York publishers, as well as Bonnier." Douche bag.
    • Sort of like Walmart but for books.
    • I'd rather have slightly higher prices, and a diverse selection of sources for books (or any good really) Than see the Walmart or Amazon effect completely take over.

  • This is a shitty, monopolistic way to go about it, but amazon kind of have a point. eBooks, a product which has no per-unit cost often cost the same amount, or *slightly* less to purchase on Kindle. If there's no physical cost to produce, then it's a shitty move to try getting the customer to pay the same for what is frankly an inferior product.
  • by kindbud (90044) on Friday May 23, 2014 @04:18PM (#47078215) Homepage

    Amazon: Big on Net Neutrality [huffingtonpost.com], not so much on Book Neutrality.

    • by Slayer (6656)

      Amazon: Big on Net Neutrality [huffingtonpost.com], not so much on Book Neutrality.

      And biggest hypocrits, too. Remember the wikileaks saga? Wikileaks was hosted on Amazon cloud - for a few days, until some congress critters gave Amazon a nice phone call. [arstechnica.com]

      Amazon and net neutrality my ass. That was the day I decided to no longer do any business with Amazon. A bookstore and hosting service that engages in politically motivated censorship does not deserve my business, and the story posted here shows how far Amazon is willing to go.

    • Amazon has always been in favor of whatever is best for Amazon. Even if it's hypocritical. It's a self-consistent position.
  • Don't give Amazon your money. They avoid paying tax and they treat their staff like dirt. Choose an alternative [ethicalconsumer.org].

  • Way to go injecting politics into the discussion. FTFA:

    âoeWhat we are seeing is a classic case of muscle-flexing,â said Andrew Rhomberg, founder of Jellybooks, an e-book discovery site. âoeKind of like Vladimir Putin mobilizing his troops along the Ukrainian border.â

    The other opinion of that is that Crimea has the right to secede and receive help from Putin or anybody they please. Thank you for making it harder for me to listen to you objectively by dropping a political dispute into this.

  • it's almost like having a company with a virtual monopoly on online sales is a bad thing. But hey, you don't _have_ to shop at Amazon, right? Not yet anyway... And they certainly wouldn't use their massive size to undercut all competition while making razor thin profits that no mom and pop could possibly sustain. And besides... Americans don't shop only on price, right? Boy, there are so many good reasons not to regulate here I can't pick just one.
  • I read the entire article and still don't know what Amazon wants. Apparently they just like to be mean, according to the author.

  • There is no need to burn the books when you can just remove them from the shelves. The great thing about ereaders too is that all you reading habits can be tracked and the distribution of ideas can also be limited.

    All that Amazon has shown is how to achieve that end.

  • Are they trying to bury the Hachette?
  • Wow. OK.

    I have not purchased from Amazon for many years, due to their anti-worker labor practices. Now, they have dropped the mask completely and have revealed themselves to be clearly anti-publisher (in an effort to enslave authors).

    Wal-Mart style tactics on a National, state-borderless, scale. Please blacklist their domain, as I have.

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