Amazon Tightens Its Grip in Dispute with Hachette

Blackmail works best.  That seems to be Amazon’s negotiating strategy, at least.  The online retailer is now refusing orders on some Hachette Book Group titles in an attempt to extort better contract terms from the publisher.

We reported earlier this week on Amazon’s “slow walking” of Hachette Book Group titles.  Amazon was putting pressure on the smallest of the Big Five publishers as the two firms try to negotiate a new contract.

Now the online retail giant has tightened its grip.  The New York Times reports that Amazon is preventing the purchase of some Hachette books and listing others as unavailable.

Amazon’s strategy is designed both to show its market dominance and to engineer a rift between Hachette and its authors.  But is it working?  In a letter to authors, Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch relates that “it is extremely encouraging to see our retail partners—thousands of chain, online and independent bookstores—showing their support for HBG and its authors.”  Despite Amazon’s foul play, Hachette still boasts the #1 Hardcover Fiction and Advice/How-To titles, and two of the Top 10 Nonfiction books in the most recent New York Times bestseller list.

Will Amazon’s bullying ever backfire?  Its suppression of availability dates back to 2010, when it removed the buy buttons from Macmillan titles while in a dispute with the publisher.  Maybe this time around readers will realize what Amazon most wants us to forget: there are other stores in town.

And while we hate to say itwe saw this coming.

Two summers ago, when the five publishers teamed with Apple to take a stand against Amazon’s e-book dominance, the Justice Department went after the publishers, not Amazon, implicitly sanctioning Amazon’s monopoly and allowing anti-competitive tactics like this to continue.

Comments: more
  • Nate H

    Since when is breaking antitrust law “taking a stand against Amazon’s e-book dominance”?

    So does that mean you are in favor of the 6 conspirators breaking the law?

    • Twinkie defense

      The DOJ went after after publishers (who can set whatever prices they want for their products) only because they have a bias towards low prices for consumers – you can effectively have a monopoly to drive prices down, but not to prevent prices dropping to unsustainable lows (basically through predatory pricing). But regulators are being penny wise and pound foolish – make no mistake, as soon as Amazon drives all their competitors out of business (and sadly, they’ve already killed tons of independent bookstores), prices will rise. But at that point there will be no competitors to challenge Amazon on pricing.