Hachette v. Amazon: You’re not going to like my thoughts

ImagePhoto Credit: Third Place Books

Before I begin, there are two posts that I’ve written in the past that I suggest you read. They aren’t directly related to today’s post, but they may give you an idea about what my thoughts will be today.

Print vs. E-book: Which side are you on?

Is Amazon Good for Books?

Read them? Great. Didn’t? Perfectly fine.

Now let’s begin. If you keep up with book or publishing news at all, then you should already know about the ongoing dispute between Hachette and Amazon. The very basic premise is that they are in the midst of contract negotiations and both sides appear to be waiting for the other side to give in to their terms. But it’s not happening. And Amazon is taking matters into their own hands. The delivery of Hachette books to customers is being delayed by weeks, the pre-order feature of future releases is no longer available, and the discounts on the books are gone.

I’ve read countless articles and blog posts attacking Amazon and standing with Hachette for what everyone claims is right. Well, this will be the first one I read in which someone stands with Amazon.

I’ve been a fan of Amazon for every one of the four years that I’ve used the site. I have a Prime membership that is always offering me new perks at no additional cost. And as a result, I’m a member of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Which allows me to borrow a book for free once a month.

Why I stand with Amazon

It is quite simple. Everyone wants to look at this from the author’s perspective. Or from that of a publisher. Are you a Hachette author? Or are you one of the Big Five publishers in America? The chance is there, but the answer to both questions is likely no. One more question, will you ever be able to say yes to either of those previous questions. Again, no. So all this talk about author royalties and the death of another publisher and Amazon’s slow takeover of the publishing industry makes me angry. You should be looking at the dispute from the perspective of the consumer, because that’s all you are. But no, you’re looking at it from a perspective you’ll never truly know. (I realize that there are plenty of Hachette authors out there looking at this dispute closely, but they aren’t writing the article after article about it. James Patterson wrote a couple of paragraphs.)

The thing is that every other major publisher has a contract with Amazon. Simon and Schuster, yes. Penguin Random House, yes. And so do the others. You’re telling me that Amazon’s demand for a greater percentage of the e-book split is not something other book retailers have considered in the past or perhaps bargained for. (Because that’s what appears to be at the bottom of the whole dispute.) According to an article I’m reading right now as I write this, publishers make 75% of the price of an e-book. Read that number again. That’s the norm. The article is quick to point out that one cannot defend that publishers make that percentage or that Amazon up its split, but everyone else has already taken their sides, so I will as well.

I definitely understand why Hachette is taking a stand, but they cannot win. Amazon has no reason to give in. Remember folks, 30% of printed books and upwards of 60% of e-books are sold on Amazon. And not to mention the fact that less than 10% of all of the site’s revenue comes from the sale of books. So don’t go writing that Amazon is doing this strictly because of their bottom line, because all that tells me is that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Their bottom line is what it is because they’re constantly developing new services for Prime members and all of the site’s users. FireTV. New Kindle devices. Etc.

So I say to Hachette to do whatever you feel you have to, but when you realize that will fail, well, then go accept Amazon’s terms and get on with life. Because all the author support in the world means nothing when they have no seat at the negotiating table. And everyone keeping up with the story knows a deal will ultimately be signed, regardless of who “wins.”

I’m ready for no one to agree with me in the comments.

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17 thoughts on “Hachette v. Amazon: You’re not going to like my thoughts

  1. I’m terrible at keeping up with any kind of news, even the publishing kind. So I didn’t know about this. Nor have I ever heard of Hachette. Is that bad? I suppose I stick with what I know. I don’t have an opinion either way, I suppose, since this is the first I’ve heard of it. But Amazon is a respected company. I have friends who work for them and they’re always talking about what a great place it is to work. So I’m sure Amazon will win in the end. I love their services and have been a Prime member for five years. I’ve never regretted it. They take care of their customers. That’s all I care about.

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    • I actually just read one blog post very similar to mine and then another who said Amazon bullies publishers and she’s boycotting because it was the “last straw” for her. Shut up. Evidently, the other publishers will be renegotiating their deals too. Didn’t know that part.

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      • Interesting. Does everyone just give in because Amazon is so huge? If Amazon is such a bully, why haven’t we heard a big stink about it before?

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      • How do you not know about this? Hmmm. This is all a result of that ginormous lawsuit that Amazon essentially won against the major publishers. They all settled, except Apple. I think. Basically, Apple and the major publishers conspired against Amazon in order to raise the price of e-books. Now they’re having to renegotiate.

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      • Well, like I said. I’m not very good at keeping up with news. Probably because I don’t watch TV. And I don’t visit news websites. Or listen to the radio much. I know, shame on me. But I hear enough of what’s going on in the world. I just have heard about this.

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      • Neither do I. But I follow LA Times Books and Huffington Post Books on Twitter. Every once in awhile they tweet something worthy of reading. Pretty sure that’s how I found out about this. See, Twitter isn’t so bad.

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      • Ah, I see! But I still won’t join Twitter unless a publisher says I must. I’m stubborn like that.

        I think I get more news from WP than anywhere else at this point in my life.

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      • Oh well. Your loss.

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  2. Actually I have read several articles that take a more balanced approach. Amazon isn’t doing anything bad to Hachette, they are just not giving them the same perks that they would give someone with whom they had a current contract.

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  3. While I don’t completely agree with you, I also don’t completely disagree. I own a Kindle; I love my Kindle and I buy a lot of e-books, both main stream and indie. I think Amazon has done great things for the book industry and their fight for larger profit margins isn’t really what worries me.
    This is what concerns me – Amazon is large enough that the outcome of the fight is more or less set. As you aptly stated, Hachette is going to give in because they can’t afford to lose the scale that Amazon provides them. The New Yorker wrote an article back in February estimating that Amazon accounts for something like 65% of e-book sales, with Nook and Apple as the only real challengers. That’s a lot of power all housed in one company. Any monopoly is dangerous, but especially one that’s information based.
    On balance I tend to think Amazon is consumer-centric and benevolent, but that’s a dangerous outlook. At the end of the day they’re a company and as employees/management shift and change, so will policies. Today the battle is over profit margins, but it could be about anything. It could be a book they don’t like, or an author they don’t agree with.
    What happens if Amazon decides they don’t want to distribute a book because they don’t like the ideas in it? Maybe that will never happen, hopefully it won’t… but we don’t know that. As consumers we’ve handed Amazon a lot of power and this is an example of Amazon utilizing it and not in a way that necessarily benefits us.
    You say you want us to look at this from a consumer’s perspective… how is removing books from their line-up, allowing weeks and weeks of delays, and ratcheting up prices helpful to their consumers? Whatever perspective you’re looking at this from, publisher, author or consumer, the only real winner here is Amazon.
    Source: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/02/17/140217fa_fact_packer?currentPage=all

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    • Amazon wins = cheaper books for everyone. All books from Hachette. You talk about their current tactics as if they’re going to remain for years and years, they aren’t. And I already know about the 65%, talk of a monopoly is uncalled for. It’s absurd. AND Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo have already censored their books. This was supposedly a big deal a long time ago. Now no one cares. They removed mostly self-published titles that dealt with rape, incest and other things of that nature.

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  4. I love Amazon too! I’m with you all the way and they have always been good to me so 😛 to you Hachette!

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  5. I know I’m a day late here but I had to pipe in. Have to say my dog in this fight is Amazon. They have done more for authors in the last 5 years than every publisher combined. If Amazon wins the customer wins in the form of a less expensive product and the authors win by higher volume of sales or higher royalties.

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    • Well, higher volume is never guaranteed. For any author or publisher. And it’ll be lower author royalties because publishers will be getting less. That’s the whole point of the dispute.

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  6. Pingback: Amazon v Hachette: Part II | Write me a book, John!

  7. Pingback: Attending Book Expo America for the First Time! | Write me a book, John!

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