Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Books Businesses The Internet

Amazon Escalates Its Battle Against Publishers 218

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Amazon Escalates Its Battle Against Publishers

Comments Filter:
  • 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.

  • 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 Hangtime ( 19526 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:36PM (#47077771) Homepage

    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.

  • 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @05:05PM (#47078677)
    Uh, no. Amazon's consistent, across-the-board selling ebooks at a loss to drive their competition out of business (aka "dumping") is a violation of antitrust laws (for this very reason. It allows the seller to get a monopolistic stranglehold on the market which they can then use for nefarious purposes).

    The agency model the publishers switched to in order to combat this is perfectly legal. The agency model simply says that instead of the owner of a good selling it to the middle man who then resells it on their own at their own price, the owner contracts with the middle man as a sales agent, where the middle man sells at the owner's price and gets a set percentage. This allows multiple online stores to successfully sell the same product, rather than there being just one winner in the market (the large one who is willing to sell at a loss).

    And yet in the bullshit collusion case brought against the publishers and Apple, the only "evidence" that the price of ebooks went up was the fact that Amazon was forced to stop selling at a loss. The prices the publishers were charging for the product didn't really change at all. They'd been charging $12-$18 depending on the book, and Amazon was turning around and selling those for $9.99. The $9.99 ebook "market" never existed to begin with outside of Amazon's illegal dumping scheme.
  • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @08:32AM (#47082511)

    And this article is that fact. Consumers are hurt when they lose choices. Amazon took away the choice to have Hachette books delivered in a timely manner. Since nobody noticed for months your wonderful theory that online retail can't be monopolized was proven wrong.

    Monopoly is not defined as "power to `hurt' customers" or "customer faces a reduced number of choices", so all the rest of your post is a red herring.

    No "monopoly" is not defined that way, but monopoly power is. You in fact defined it that way an entire two posts ago:
    "So in this scenario, they become lowest cost seller of everything? And this is harmful to customers, how?"

    We can engage in a 10th-grade level grammar debate over whether "Monopolized" only means "the act of being a monopoly," or it can also mean "having monopoly power," or you can respond to my post on reality with something besides theory.

    Hachette books does not have an innate right to use Amazon to sell their wares. If they don't like the level of service provided by Amazon, Amazon can do NOTHING to stop Hachette from creating an online store for their readers and shipping books by their choice of USPS, UPS, or FedEx. They could even sell their readers ebooks and not deal with the logistics of killing trees and moving them around.

    The rights of a monopolist are red herring.

    You do not the right to force IBM to sell you a computer that can run several different operating systems. You do not have the right to force Microsoft to sell you a computer with a browser that can access non-MS-approved websites. But it happened.

    Or if that's too much work for Hachette, there a myriad of other online retailers who will gladly work with them to sell their wares.

    The very idea of "muscling" in the online realm is ridiculous. Amazon can take their ball and go home but they can't force anyone else to use their ball.

    If that was true Hachette wouldn't be losing sales.

  • by west ( 39918 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @08:47AM (#47082563)

    You are certainly technically correct. Amazon is not a monopoly. However, they are the 800-pound gorilla, and we've seen this script before.

    Essentially their market power allows them to dictate price and the price they demand is well below what the publishers can sustain themselves (as they currently exist) at. This means that they cannot (and will not) give the same price to the competition. This happened with the independent and the chain bookstores as well, and it pretty much drove the vast majority of the independents out of business.

    And no, as has been made pretty clear, the strong majority of customers won't look anywhere else besides Amazon. Being unavailable in Amazon is roughly equivalent to having Google search delist your website. Sure, you still exist, and a small number of die-hards have you in their bookmarks, but you're essentially a dead-man (site?) walking.

    So, effectively for the publishers, Amazon *is* the only game in town, regardless of legal definitions, and Amazon is playing the Walmart game. This might work well for consumers, unless they're looking for a certain quality of goods, in which case, the practice is deeply worrisome.

    If you are interested in lots of cheap self-published fan-fic, then the "Amazonization" of the book industry is not a problem. After all, Walmart serves a significant audience as well. However, if you are well-served by the *current* book market, where books aren't cheap, but you are willing to pay the publishers for quality control (and assume that most good authors would find gainful employment elsewhere if they're asked to write for near-free) , then yes, driving the publishers out of business is not a positive development.

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.