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Books Businesses Your Rights Online

Amazon Confirms Hachette Spat Is To "Get a Better Deal" 211

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-book-for-you dept.
tlhIngan (30335) writes "Last week we heard that Amazon was withdrawing Hachette books from its virtual shelves including allowing preorders of the new JK Rowling book. Amazon has responded to these allegations, and confirms that yes, they are purposefully preventing pre-orders and lowering stock in order to get a better deal from Hachette. Amazon recommends that in the meantime, customers either buy a used or new copy from their zShops or buy from a competitor. Amazon admits there is nothing wrong with Hachette's business dealings and that they are a generally good supplier." Here's Hachette's response to the Amazon statement.
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Amazon Confirms Hachette Spat Is To "Get a Better Deal"

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  • by Enigma2175 (179646) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:30PM (#47115317) Homepage Journal

    FTFA:

    Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.

    My rebuttal: Yes they are.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:39PM (#47115371)

      FTFA:

      Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.

      My rebuttal: Yes they are.

      The entire reason we have a first sale doctrine is because a publisher was trying to artificially inflate the price of a book.

    • FTFA:

      Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.

      My rebuttal: Yes they are.

      Absolutely correct.

      I presume that you won't mind getting a copy of Meyer's Twilight instead of Stoker's Dracula. I mean, they're both vampire novels, so they're completely fungible, right?

      • by LocalH (28506) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:10PM (#47115623) Homepage

        But things that are considered consumer goods, like many technologies, are not completely fungible by that standard. Sure, you have devices that can serve the same purpose, but in most cases they're not really interchangeable without some major changes in what you're doing. You can't really replace a Wii U with an Xbox One and consider them "completely fungible".

        • But things that are considered consumer goods, like many technologies, are not completely fungible by that standard.

          This is true. So...?

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:47PM (#47115847)

            Your argument is that books aren't like other consumer goods because they're not fungible. Your debate partner pointed out that other items which are generally considered consumer goods are also not fungible. This implies that whether or not an item is fungible isn't sufficient for defining whether or not an item is a consumer good. Generally, this is the point were you would offer up another criteria to distinguish between non-fungible consumer goods and books.

            • by LocalH (28506) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @11:38PM (#47116711) Homepage

              Spot on. I take issue with Amazon's handling of this not because of anything to do with whether books are a "consumer good" or not, which they clearly are in the first place (they're sold at retail, buyer gains first sale rights concerning the physical object, sounds pretty much like a good to me). It's because it's anti-consumer. It punishes people who dare to buy from vendors or publishers which the marketplace provider has some sort of issue with. It's exactly like the fights between cable/satellite providers and distributors. The only thing they do is punish the people who enjoy the things they air. Exactly like those situations, we have public communication from each entity blaming the other and confusing the average person. I half-expect Amazon to start putting a little ad-size box on pages for Hachette books "explaining" to the potential buyer why they shouldn't even buy the book in the first place, and Hachette adding extra pages into Amazon-destined copies explaining how shitty Amazon is.

              It's all a big dick-waving contest and doesn't help anyone but the one with the biggest dick.

              • And yes, I meant to put "explaining" in scare quotes both times at the end there and neglected to do so. This is not some "smoking gun" that I have an ulterior motive to support Hachette, for all you conspiracy nuts out there.

            • by IAN (30)
              Post to undo fat-fingered mod. Ignore.
            • by nut (19435)

              Nor has he shown that books are not fungible. He has only shown that books are not necessarily fungible between titles. (Of course even that is debatable, as it depends on the personal sensibilities of the consumer.) Two copies of the same book are clearly fungible. This is implicit in the fact that Amazon sells "the same book" to two different people in two separate transactions. Presumably the two readers don't care which book rolled off the press first.

          • "So...?" is I think what we're asking you.

            Your comment seemed to suggest that books aren't like any other consumer good because different books aren't completely fungible for different types of books (I would absolutely say that one copy of Meyer's Twilight is pretty much like another, with minor exceptions like a signed copy or whatever).

            The reply is that virtually no consumer good is completely fungible, so that argument implies that there is no such thing as a consumer good, which is ridiculous.

      • by lgw (121541)

        A Hyundai and a Ferrari are both cars, like any other consumer good, but few would consider them fungible.

        Nothing wrong with Amazon playing hardball in negotiations. They're still far from a monopoly.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        I presume that you won't mind getting a copy of Meyer's Twilight instead of Stoker's Dracula. I mean, they're both vampire novels, so they're completely fungible, right?

        I'm sure you won't mind getting the Dell ultrabook, instead of the Macbook air you asked for. I mean, they're both computers, so completely fungible, right?

      • So you don't mind if I deliver you any old red car if you've paid for a Ferrari? They're both red cars.
        It doesn't matter if you get a cheap no-name Android tablet instead of your Galaxy Tab?

      • In a world of patents and copyright, "completely fungible" is a myth of the past. How many products can you actually name that are "completely fungible" that didn't come into existence in the past 20 years? Personally, I can only think of items that have been around for at least half a century (e.g. washing machines or fridges), but anything else? Cars were pretty much fungible a while ago, today no longer. Whatever accessories you bought will almost certainly not fit your next car, not even from the same m

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:17PM (#47115677) Journal
      Arguably they aren't like any other consumer good: they share a pretty easily identified, and salient, set of characteristics with certain other 'culture products', music, movies, and similar: marginal cost of production is essentially zero, different ones are partial substitutes for one another; but rather weakly compared to other consumer goods, 'brand' affinity follows individual producers (or nominal producers, as in the case of certain heavily-managed tween-pop-to-order acts) rather than companies, and so forth.

      Books aren't some Unique And Sacred Category Unto Themselves; but the characteristics listed above are pretty significantly unlike those of, say, consumer appliances(where marginal cost of production is comparatively high, different ones are nearly perfect substitutes, brand affinity, if any, follows companies while individual designers are unknown, etc.)

      What isn't clear to me (any authors in the house?) is whether the traditional big publishers are, by reason of a certain gentlemanly ossification, allies to the otherwise scattered and helotized writers, or whether this is basically a spat between two would-be-exploiters of authors over who gets the profits.

      Amazon sure as hell isn't in this out of the goodness of their hearts; but they are also not going to waste a penny more than necessary on quaint traditional supply chains, 'remaindered' or 'stripped' books, and anything of the like; but they also aren't going to let any mere customs hold them back when it comes to contractual matters.

      The incumbent publishers are definitely more tradition-bound; but I don't know how much this just makes them inefficient, and how much it makes them act more nicely than good old sociopathic 'homo economicus' would.
      • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @10:23PM (#47116397) Journal

        Amazon sure as hell isn't in this out of the goodness of their hearts;

        And lets be honest, neither are publishers. And if we really dig deep, we might find that authors sometimes write mainly for profit as well.

        • Oh, they certainly aren't. I just don't know how much their more reactionary cultures restrain them. I assume that they know a thing or two about shafting writers; but Amazon's...zeal...for cost-cutting is downright legendary, so I don't know if they are in the same league, or if they are held back by some mixture of codified traditional contract terms and sheer inferiority in cold-blooded calculation.
          • by s.petry (762400)

            Did you mean to say "Amazon's zeal for maximizing profits, even when it pisses off consumers costing them bottom line and is of questionable legality"?

            The price fixing game on ebooks has been crazy, and with the advent of "e-books" we would assume that the costs of books goes down because distribution is so cheap. At least that's what we would think if the economy was working normally.

            Instead, we have a few E-book vendors charging people the same money for an ebook as for the hardback in many cases. I can

            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              The price fixing game on ebooks has been crazy, and with the advent of "e-books" we would assume that the costs of books goes down because distribution is so cheap. At least that's what we would think if the economy was working normally.

              Except distribution is cheap. It averages under 10% the price of a book on average.

              The real costs with publishing is the bunch of work that goes into transforming an author's lump of words into what people generally call a book.

              First, you need an editor. You'd think authors

      • by bidule (173941)

        Books aren't some Unique And Sacred Category Unto Themselves; but the characteristics listed above are pretty significantly unlike those of, say, consumer appliances.

        Yep, if only because literature is the sole mean to save the masses from analphabetism. It is a source of self-education that allows to understand the difference between principle and principal, capitol and capital, affect and effect, and all those weird ways to expand your vocabulary beyond the 1000 mark or the 10,000 mark.

        Not that Hachette helps in any way there.

    • There was a good article in The New Yorker a few months ago about the Amazon business practices.
      Their very tough negotiation position typically forces the publisher to give big discounts, and even extra money to be listed high enough in the sales results.
      Amazon books are usually cheaper than in many other stores so from a consumer level, this seems like a win for the capitalist philosophy.
      However, it turns out that these huge discounts have a snowball effect towards the authors: they now typically get lo
      • I agree with most of your points, but take issue with this statement. "Amazon books are usually cheaper than in many other stores so from a consumer level, this seems like a win for the capitalist philosophy.".

        The cheapest price for a consumer is not "Capitalist Philosophy". Capitalist Philosophy, according to Adam Smith requires evaluating the economy as a whole. Consumers and regulators need to remove bad players from the system and diminishing those too large, or Capitalism will fail just like Mercan

    • by JosKarith (757063)
      Seems like a bit of a Hatchette job to me...
  • by careysb (566113) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:35PM (#47115347)

    Guess I'll be broadening my shopping horizons.

    • by TWX (665546)
      See, I'm not necessarily upset at Amazon for doing this, as they're being seemingly open and honest about it.

      This is also one of the few things that I don't get upset at Walmart for. Their intentionally under-pricing their goods at a loss to force competitors in small markets to go under before raising their prices is what upsets me.
      • Don't speak too soon.

        I suspect what they're actually fighting for is the right to send dividends to Wall St. Their current prices are at break-even level, and they don't want to increase prices, so they'll cut their costs.

        In other words we could be in stage 1 of Amazon's version of the WalMart plan: low prices keep everyone else out of the market.

        • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:20PM (#47115693) Journal

          Except Wal-Mart's prices are damn low over time. They can sustain lower prices than just about anyone else because they have the best logistics chain in the world - really amazing tech there. Also partly because they sell low-quality versions of familiar products, of course, but apparently consumers are just fine with that.

          Face it: hatred for Wal-Mart is a tribal identification thing, not a rational economic argument.

          The interesting fight is yet to come. Eventually, Wal-Mart and Amazon will be in direct competition. Bring popcorn.

          • by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:48PM (#47115851)

            The interesting fight is yet to come. Eventually, Wal-Mart and Amazon will be in direct competition. Bring popcorn.

            Like we'll be able to afford popcorn when the only two suppliers of it are WalMart and Amazon.

            • by lgw (121541)

              Maybe you've never been poor enough the need to shop at Wal-Mart, but here's a hint: people shop there because it's so cheap. It's also already the nations biggest grocery store chain (arguably, it's now a grocery store that also sells some other stuff, since groceries are the majority of its revenue), Prices can only go down from competition, though I don't think Amazon's direct-delivery model for groceries will play in the same market as Wal-Mart, they do compete in other areas.

            • by schnell (163007)

              Like we'll be able to afford popcorn when the only two suppliers of it are WalMart and Amazon.

              Yes, you will. In fact, that's the whole point - people shop at Amazon and Wal-Mart because it saves them money. Both are known widely for leveraging their scale and supply chain efficiencies to sell goods for much lower costs than any competitors.

              If you're trying to suggest that eventually Amazon and Wal-Mart will be the only two employers in the US, then that's a different argument. Wal-Mart is well-known for low wages, but Amazon's employees are typically paid in a range that is high vs. the US median, b

          • Face it: hatred for Wal-Mart is a tribal identification thing, not a rational economic argument.

            What an idiotic statement. Was hatred of Standard Oil irrational? Allowing a monopoly to control a market has the potential to be efficient (at least in the short term) but ultimately consumers lose when choice and competition disappear.

            • by alen (225700)

              wal mart is not a monopoly. not in any market they operate and other stores have similar prices

              wal mart is only a monopoly on the cheapest made stuff that is specially made for their stores to be the cheapest possible.

              • by Accordion Noir (1256202) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @10:35PM (#47116445) Homepage

                I'd say that WalMart is getting close to a monopoly in towns I've visited where a few years before there were hardware stores, grocery stores, fabric stores etc, and a somewhat functional downtown, and now there is ... Walmart. It's not the only place you can buy things in the country, but it has pretty much driven some whole towns out of business.

                There's anecdotal evidence for you.

            • by JDAustin (468180) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @11:22PM (#47116641)

              Was hatred of Standard Oil irrational?

              Actually, it was somewhat.

              In 1865, the price of kerosene was 58 cents/gallon and Standard oil had almost no share of the market. By 1870, Standard Oil had a 4% share of the market and kerosene prices were at 26cents/gallon. In 1880, Standard had a 90% share of the market. Kerosene prices were now at 9cents a gallon. After a decade of 90% market share, kerosene prices were down to 7cents/gallon.

              Why? Efficiency.

              Rockefeller did such things as purchasing entire forests so he could make his own barrels. The result is a barrel price drop from $3 to $1. Rockefeller also offered guaranteed daily traffic to the railroads using Standard-owned cars, loaded and unloaded in Standard owned facilities. The result was a lowering of transport costs from $900k per trip to $300k per trip.

              When it came to take-overs of competitors, Rockefeller opened the books and made a reasonable offer as he wanted talent and assets. If they refused, then he would start undercutting on price (while still turning a profit).

              Now Standard Oil wasn't broken up until 1911, but due to competitors copying Rockefellers methods, its market share was at 65% and falling. Standard Oil didn't stop competition, it only forced them to become better.

          • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @09:22PM (#47116067)

            Face it: hatred for Wal-Mart is a tribal identification thing, not a rational economic argument.

            I almost agree with, the only real problem with Wal-Mart, from an economics stand-point, is that they externalize costs to the broader economy that they should be induced to bear. Three examples:

            1. In many areas, Wal-Mart pays a wage that qualifies workers for government subsidy, in the form of reduced cost medical care, food stamps, general assistance, etc. This is not directly Wal-Mart's fault because the policy options permit this, but it is still an economic problem which they are responsible for. The lack of labor demand is a huge contributing factor which is mostly out of Wal-Mart's responsibility. Nonetheless, every Wal-Mart store receives an effective government subsidy for each hour worked, and this is both an unfair competitive advantage and a drain on the larger economy. In effect, competitors who pay a higher wage are subsiding their competition, via taxes they pay. Fundamentally unfair. The economic alternative is for other companies to race to the bottom to compete, or to pay above market rate wages, both of which are overall unhealthy to the broader economy.

            2. Wal-mart, through it's market power, pushes costs that the retailer would traditionally bear, onto suppliers. This isn't fundamentally bad, but it can have many bad side effects economically. For one, small suppliers take excess risk, and when the risk goes against them, they fail, and the broader economy has to absorb the failed business. This is a repetitive pattern, with suppliers who try to operate to close to margin make bad decisions or even a single bad decision. Wal-mart can leverage it's substantial volume to get margins that leave their suppliers very close to insolvency. Inevitably some of these suppliers will fail, and those failures induce costs across the broader economy.

            3. In 2011, Wal-Mart committed to only supplying fish that were responsibly harvested. This was in response to data that showed that it's suppliers were doing ecologically unsustainable harm in industrial fish farming. This is a great step, but it's just one of the thousands of product lines that Wal-Mart has. By doing business with many suppliers who have no long-term footprint, and operate in regulatory environments where the full economic impacts of unsustainable practices are not known, Wal-Mart induces suppliers to take risks and use businesses practices which would be illegal or unsupportable in the United States and it's other primary retail markets. In the fish example, suppliers were overfishing and wiping out the feed fish in order to produce economically profitable industrially farmed fish for sale in the US. When the feed fish species were wiped out, they moved onto other species and then finally onto other areas. In the long-term of course that is unsustainable. What other products and suppliers operate in this same way, in various countries who are willing to trade long-term damage for short-term jobs and economic activity? Wal-mart is working on this, but their entire supply chain needs to be examined and steps taken to make sure that the suppliers they use, and the down-level suppliers, are operating in an ethical manner. Somewhere at sometime, the costs of ecological damage have to be paid by the broader world economy, and they should be reflected in the prices of goods sold on the shelves at Wal-Mart, as they are for most (but not all) of their competition.

            All three of these issues are not the "fault" of Wal-Mart, in that as a country we allow Wal-Mart to go down these roads. But it's still an ethical problem with shopping at Wal-Mart, and those problems should weigh, in my opinion, on the minds of those who routinely shop there. As the shopping destination of choice for a huge swath of America, Wal-Mart is positioned to make small changes to their business that will inevitably reduce their bottom line and drive up costs, but will level out the damage done, especially to overseas suppliers and their workers.

            • by Jiro (131519)

              I think that item #2 not only isn't the fauly of Wal-Mart, it's not a problem at all. It's true that someone who pushes costs onto suppliers may end up with suppliers going out of business. But all they're doing is pushing costs around. This moves around the identity of exactly who goes out of business, but it doesn't really increase the quantity.

              In other words, if Wal-Mart were replaced by other stores that couldn't push costs onto suppliers, the stores would bear the costs instead of the suppliers. In

              • Yeah, #2 is a tricky situation. This is theoretical economics, and it's not always operating the way you might want. A manufacturer should bear the risk that their product is not priced right, is not what a customer wants, is not of the quality (either high or low) that a customer willing to pay for, not available when the customer wants it, is not available in the area that the customer wants, etc. Those are all valid things that a manufacturer/supplier should be subject to. And, for everything Wal-Mar

          • Wait, what? Lowering the quality of goods is just as bad as raising the prices to me.

            Take product A It costs $10 and lasts five years.
            Walmart modifies product A to create Product B, which costs $7 and lasts two years.

            To me that is worse than a $2 rise in product A.

            How is that not an economic argument?

            • by ArmoredDragon (3450605) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @10:40PM (#47116465)

              This is quite false, and in many respects is a red herring.

              The first problem with this argument is that there is no set time period for how much something will last. The second is that at the same time, marginal reductions in production cost don't necessarily equate to reduced durability. Generally when they refer to lower quality, at least in the case of Wal-Mart, they're referring to a substitute for a cheaper material in all or part of the product, which generally results in lower aesthetics and has nothing to do with durability.

              Take for example, substituting leather for vinyl. Vinyl actually carries a few advantages over leather (for example, it is far more tolerant of getting wet, more tolerant of direct sunlight exposure, and less likely to crack or fade.) It also carries a few disadvantages in that it generally feels somehow rubbery/artificial and not as "soft," in addition to being more likely to cause you to sweat if it sits against your skin. The cheaper "quality" product will be made with vinyl rather than leather, but as for which one expires sooner depends on how the product ends up being used. In a more wet environment, the vinyl product is guaranteed to last longer.

              Indeed, the defining characteristics of modern manufacturing are for cheaper products while having fewer defects. This is called Lean Principles. Arguably by cutting out some of the more expensive manufacturing processes, you also reduce the chances for error, simultaneously reducing cost as well as increasing quality. Historically (over the last 60 years) this argument has proven to be accurate. Yes there are some products that are so horribly built that they have poor endurance, however that has more to do with poor manufacturing techniques than cost of production. I've seen plenty of expensive products have the same characteristic, take for example the mac mini's which are often built from notoriously bad parts (meanwhile Apple fans tend to praise them anyways.)

              • MTBF. Mean time before failure. Everything has one.

                I specifically didn't give a specific product to avoid any counter point based on aesthetics. There is absolutely a lack of durability in some walmart products. I actually think that they do a good job of maintaining the aesthetics of products, while worsening durability. asthetics are a main driver of impulse purchases, which walmart excels at.

          • by Rinikusu (28164)

            /* Face it: hatred for Wal-Mart is a tribal identification thing, not a rational economic argument. */

            Actually, it can be a rational economic argument. When my tax dollars are used to subsidize their employee's basic needs, it becomes in my rational self-interest to figure out why, even with Wal-Mart's economies of scale and state-of-the-art distribution system, their own employees must get food stamps and housing assistance. On *my* dime. And yours. And your neighbors.

          • by sootman (158191)

            > hatred for Wal-Mart is a tribal identification
            > thing, not a rational economic argument.

            There's more to economics than how much it costs you to buy things. Have you heard about how badly they pay their employees?

            There are plenty of good reasons to dislike Walmart.

        • Amazon stock doesn't pay dividends.

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          Their current prices are at break-even level, and they don't want to increase prices, so they'll cut their costs.

          The dispute is about ebook pricing. You should probably find a link, any link, to information comparing ebook and printed book profit margins.

          You might find that whatever assumptions you were making were totally off-base, and that the margins involved are epic compared to other products amazon sells.

          Much analysis has amazon actually wanting the margins to be narrower, because their focus is volume and low retail prices.

          Once you see the ebook publisher margins and the retail prices, it becomes obvious that a

      • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:02PM (#47115551)

        See, I'm not necessarily upset at Amazon for doing this, as they're being seemingly open and honest about it.

        Sure they are. But that doesn't make it right.

        Cheap books now, but in the long run, fewer choices.

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          See, I'm not necessarily upset at Amazon for doing this, as they're being seemingly open and honest about it.

          Sure they are. But that doesn't make it right.

          Cheap books now, but in the long run, fewer choices.

          1. Cheap books now
          2. ...
          3. Fewer choices!

          Where have I seen this pattern before...

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:57PM (#47115511)

      Guess I'll be broadening my shopping horizons.

      This is how all major contact negotiations work. I'm involved with them all the time and this is almost assuredly the publishers fault.

      The rule is, you have the contract done and signed before the previous one expires. If you don't, it puts you in a precarious situation... like this. If the previous contract was still in place, Amazon couldn't do what they're doing. All of the pricing, etc... is set in the contract. It's very very precise language. Once the contract runs out, if they haven't come to an agreement yet, it's standard for the one or both of the companies involved to flex their muscle, just like amazon did here. The message is clear "You have no leverage over us. We can just stop selling your product, we still keep making money, oh look at your stock price..." etc... If Hachett doesn't like it, they can stop doing business with amazon, or agree to the terms.

      And before you get all sad for Hatchett, you should know they're a $2 billion company, that contain parts of the publishing of CBS, Disney and Time Warner. They are not the friendly do-good book publisher you think they are.

      • by c (8461)

        The rule is, you have the contract done and signed before the previous one expires.

        I expect that there's also a very applicable rule about how any contract negotiation after getting caught in anti-trust collusion against one of the largest retailers of your goods will probably involve you making more concessions that you might like.

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          Especially when the anti-trust issue involved inflating the price of ebooks, and the contract dispute is over the publisher insisting on those higher prices, instead of reverting to the pre-anti-trust prices.

    • by digitig (1056110)
      I'd be interested to know how much difference Amazon's actions are actually making to Hachette. If I want to buy a book online I Google for it and find a supplier that has it for a reasonable price (and can deliver in reasonable time, if I'm buying the dead tree version). If Amazon doesn't have it or has a long lead time, won't folks just go somewhere else? It's not as if they actually have to walk down the street to get to the next store. As far as I can see, all Amazon is doing is encouraging buyers to ch
    • When you buy a Hatchette book for $10 on Amazon:

      Amazon gets $3.00.
      Hatchette gets $5.25.
      The author gets $1.75.

      When you buy an e-book from Hatchette on Amazon for $10:
      Amazon gets $3.00.
      Hatchette gets $5.25.
      The author gets $1.50.

      When you buy a self-published title on Amazon for $10:
      Amazon gets $7.00
      The author gets $3.00.

      Hatchette gets 52.5% of revenue from the work authors do.
      E-books, which have no cost of production or distribution net Hachette 52.5% of the author's work.
      Hatchette, along with the other big fi

  • by Koby77 (992785) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:40PM (#47115379)
    It's good to see a big company actually fight for better prices for customers. I wish my cable company was like that. And before anyone gets me started, remember that monopolies are only abusive if they use their power to screw over the consumers; there is no antitrust protection for businesses to profit.
    • Than how is OK for Novel to go after Microsoft? Wasn't that solely about anti-competitive behavior as opposed to Apple going after Sony over patents?

      And my suspicion is that Amazon could care less about consumers other than their impact to their bottom line. I don't believe for a minute that once they have most/all of the publishing industry under their thumb they won't slowly but surely raise prices. Their not doing this for you or me, just themselves. We might benefit in the short term but I doubt that it

      • by Aighearach (97333)

        Amazon is trying to lower prices to a level that still leaves ebook margins higher than for printed books. There is no anti-competitive argument to be made there. Other retailers can match their price and still make a profit. And customers are only protected from increased prices, not from decreased prices.

    • And what makes you think they'll cut prices? Their prices are already lower then everyone else. Bezos is not running a charity.

      Basically the long-term result of this for consumers is less published books, because the author's cut comes from the publisher's cut. If you pay less for something (ie: royalties to authors) you get less of it.

      If you think self-publishing will actually work you probably don;t mind because self-published stuff will fill the gap.

    • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:05PM (#47115589)

      It's good to see a big company actually fight for better prices for customers.

      No, that's not the Amazon plan. In fact, they are trying to drive publishers out of business and force authors to deal directly with them, as the only choice. As the de facto monopoly, they can dictate to the authors what they will pay, and it ain't going to be pretty.

      • by xigxag (167441)

        Even if they drove all the publishers out of business, they still wouldn't be a monopoly because there are plenty of other bookstores, both online and off. If writers who are not represented by publishers don't like the terms Amazon offers, they can contract with another storefront and get better terms. Say Amazon wants to sell your book for $5, but bn.com is willing to sell it for $10. Why bother with Amazon? You're going to go to bn.com exclusively, as would any other writer. Amazon would then be forc

        • Even if they drove all the publishers out of business, they still wouldn't be a monopoly because there are plenty of other bookstores, both online and off.

          Even if Microsoft drove all the software companies out of business, they still wouldn't be a monopoly because there is plenty of free software...

        • by bdam (1774922) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @07:26AM (#47118157)
          Full Disclosure: I work for a small publisher. In terms of actual stores dedicated to selling books, there are fewer and fewer of them as time goes by. And it's not just the small guys, Borders got taken out too. To be clear, there's an economic argument to be made that this is a good thing but let's at least be clear about one thing: Amazon has a very real monopoly on print and electronic books. While publishers will come and go over time the idea that authors will publish their own books shows a lack of experience actually dealing with real authors. Sure, some have the talent, desire, and resources to do so. However, that vast majority of authors we deal with do not want to prepare their books for market and then have to deal with retailers. Further, publishers are partially in the business of risk taking by offering up payment upfront to authors for works they haven't completed yet. Authors tend to be comforted knowing that they'll get $X now for signing the contracts and $Y later when they deliver the manuscript regardless of actually making a single sale. Again, some authors are willing to take that risk and it will pay off but not many. So sure, Amazon could take on those roles but that doesn't just magically remove teat suckers. Unless you want unedited and un-styled walls of text someone's going to have to edit the damn thing and someone with an eye for a design needs to make it look half-way appealing. Those people aren't likely to do so for free. I'm sure Amazon could come into the market though and push those costs down and economically that'd be great. However, speaking long term, how long is that going to last? If Amazon has a monopoly on publishing in addition to distribution then what makes you think they'll continue with razor-thin margins?
    • by alen (225700)

      when cable companies fight for you and there is a blackout the consumers usually rant how the evil cable company is not paying enough

    • its interesting that amazon is very consumer friendly and if they happen to be busines-hostile, that's a DOUBLE BONUS in my book.

      I'm ready to be as hostile to business as possible. business is the holy cow of the modern age in america. no one wants to 'harm' business; but realize that there are more consumers in the world than business people or owners! who should we care more about? I know who I care more about.

      amazon has treated me extremely well as a consumer. I like that! business has too many advan

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:44PM (#47115419)
    Shouldn't this fuel an antitrust investigation? The mere fact they can pressure a publisher by not listing their books means free market failed.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:58PM (#47115517)

      no, being able to put preassure on someone by deciding to buy from someone else is not showing that the free market failed, it is the free market in operation.

      • by Arker (91948) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:44PM (#47115837) Homepage
        "it is the free market in operation"

        Except the only free market in books tolerated is in reprints of books originally published in prior millenia. This is not a free market on either end or in any way.
        • Bullshit - your point is like saying you cannot reproduce and sell Heinz goods as your own, so the free market is broken. Nothing about the free market concept allows you to take someone else's goods, reproduce them and sell them on, so its your point that is broken and not the concept of the free market.

          The publishers can take their products elsewhere if they so wish, so the free market is fine.

    • by alen (225700)

      just buy it from another store. how hard is that? it's not like amazon is the only seller of books

    • by bloodhawk (813939)

      Shouldn't this fuel an antitrust investigation? The mere fact they can pressure a publisher by not listing their books means free market failed.

      Actually this appears to be the exact opposite and is a demonstration of a free market working not failing. The inability to put pressure on a publisher would be free market failure.

    • But they do list them, every 3rd party merchant in their network can list the book for sale. Amazon will assist in the transaction in the same manner they have for any other purchases made from those merchants, including showing the books in the search results.
    • How is a market free if a distributor has no freedom about what it can sell?

      If Amazon want to make a specific margin and they don't believe their customers will pay cost + margin, their only choice is to A) Don't sell it or B) Demand a lower cost.

      You can't force Amazon to sell your product.

    • by bidule (173941)

      Shouldn't this fuel an antitrust investigation?

      Isn't antitrust when you use your strength in a market to sell at loss in another?

  • Here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:58PM (#47115521)

    I'll just leave this here...

    http://booksprung.com/dear-hac... [booksprung.com]

    Thanks Amazon ;-)

  • I recommend... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:00PM (#47115533)

    ...that consumers dump Amazon in favor of Powell's Books [powells.com].

  • Punish Apple! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @09:04PM (#47115951)

    Amazon behaving badly in a market where they have a monopoly? Time to get out the Apple Beatin' Stick again! Got to keep down those competitors with government sanctioned punishments for even trying.

  • The Amazon share price demonstrates that investors anticipate profit from the Amazon business model at some point, which they will point very loudly when it begins to appear that growth has reached a plateau. (It's only mildly conceivable that this whole thing is a Ponzi scheme held afloat by successive ranks of the greater fool.)

    By some weird co-incidence I breezed through The Everything Store by Brad Stone yesterday afternoon (and following up, just an hour ago, MacKenzie Bezos's misguided one-star revie

    • by epine (68316)

      I notice re-reading my own post that I have an "out" missed and an "out" added. Must be how it passed through casting nines.

  • To Summarize (Score:4, Interesting)

    by matunos (1587263) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @09:57PM (#47116227)

    Both parties admit they're in contract renegotiations. So the current public spat appears to be about whether a retailer should be obliged to continue to stock the goods under negotiation for resale without a contract, because... authors?

    • by Arker (91948)
      "Both parties admit they're in contract renegotiations. So the current public spat appears to be about whether a retailer should be obliged to continue to stock the goods under negotiation for resale without a contract, because... authors?"

      How about customers?

      Amazon customers, specifically, may be inconvenienced for this. Which seems a little strange in the context that they appear to have been the ones who decided to take this particular action as a way of slapping around Hachette.

      So, Amazon screams 'custo
      • From what I can tell, Amazon is still offering the products for sale, but not stocking it as they don't have a contract with the publisher. So if you buy one of the books not in stock, they have to order it from the publisher on demand.

        I don't see why a retailer should unilaterally compromise their business (stocking large quantities of books without a contract from the supplier) in order to serve customers just because the publisher doesn't accept the proposed terms.

        Both companies are playing hardball mayb

  • E-books are not books. They are not retail sales of merchandise. An e-book purchase is only a license. Amazon is using monopolistic behavior in e-book licensing to control pricing from publishers to extract monopolistic profits, to secure market share, and to reduce competition where Amazon is able to dictate access to customers who they control through their locked ecosystem. Amazon's ultimate goal is to bypass the publishers altogether, and control the licensing of books from authorship to consumer.
    • by Rande (255599)

      Except there's nothing stopping the publishers from opening up their own website to sell ebooks.
      The barrier to entry isn't that high.
      Offer them for less than Amazon, with a good user experience and people will flock to it.
      ie. Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap.

      Or are you saying that Amazon has forced them into 'Most favoured nation' clauses where they aren't allowed to sell for lower than Amazon? (Like Apple did, which _was_ anticompetitive)

      • by davecb (6526)

        My publisher has such a site and sells DAISY, ePub, Mobi and PDF directly. They cannot sell them via Amazon, however. The Amazon site sells only a kindle-specific variant.

        The fact that someone as major as O'Reilly has to deal with Amazon, at a price disadvantage and with significant limitations on what they're allowed to sell is typical of a monopoly, or an oligopoly with one leading member and the others doing price- and policy-following.

        Monopolies are barely legal in Canada (where I am), but oligopol

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