Amazon built its reputation as an online book seller. Now, it's using its reputation - and considerable selling power - in a huge dispute with book publishers and suppliers. As always, we're caught in the middle.
Amazon in particular has it out for Hachette suppliers. Gizmodo reports that shipments are being delayed, prices are being inflated and some books are flat out unavailable.
The New York Times reports what's behind this situation:
The battle is being waged largely over physical books. In the United States, Amazon has been discouraging customers from buying titles from Hachette, the fourth-largest publisher by market share. Late Thursday, it escalated the dispute by making it impossible to order Hachette titles being issued this summer and fall. It is using some of the same tactics against the Bonnier Media Group in Germany.
Here's Gizmodo's list of recent books, their price on Amazon, their price on Barnes & Noble, and the difference.
As you can see, of two dozen books, only one was cheaper on Amazon - and only by 33 cents. The average difference between Amazon and Barnes and Noble in this example was an amazing $8.23.
Amazon has tried to explain its position. From its release:
At Amazon, we do business with more than 70,000 suppliers, including thousands of publishers. One of our important suppliers is Hachette, which is part of a $10 billion media conglomerate. Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually-acceptable agreement on terms. Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives. Nevertheless, the two companies have so far failed to find a solution. Even more unfortunate, though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.
Publishers are furious. One talked to the New York Times.
“How is this not extortion? You know, the thing that is illegal when the Mafia does it,” asked Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House, echoing remarks being made across social media.
It's always awful that battles between the big boys end up affecting the little guys like you and me. For now, be sure you compare prices carefully online, and let's hope all this gets settled soon.
Looking for a way to read without paying a dime? Here are 6 sites you can borrow free e-books.