“Amazon hates you,” claims FastCompany.
That’s a bit strong, don’t you think?
The mag – or at least their writer Kit Eaton – goes on to claim that Amazon hates publishers too. In an online story featured in their newsletter today, Eaton summarises last week’s falling-out between prominent publisher Macmillan and the online bookselling behemoth.
First, his summary of what happened: ‘Amazon and Macmillan books entered into discussions about the prices Amazon charges for e-books from the publisher, with Macmillan pressuring for a higher price–perhaps around $15, which is much more than Amazon’s strict $9.99 limit. It’s clear the move was inspired by Apple’s iPad and simultaneous iBooks launch event, which promises a fairer share, more favorable terms and conditions than Amazon, and higher price points. Amazon, of course, operates something like a supermarket giant does in the food industry — leveraging its huge size to force suppliers to sell to it at wholesale prices. This tactic has caused issues in the food market, and now its doing the same in the books market: Amazon refused, and without warning pulled all Macmillan books from its store. That’s one of the “big six” U.S. publishers, mind you. Macmillan’s CEO stood his ground, and explained his thinking in an open letter, and Amazon was forced to “capitulate” and return Macmillan books to the store.’
I would have thought the obvious conclusion would be that the consumer had lost – that you and I are now forced to pay higher prices because this publisher was a capitalistic ogre. Eaton’s argument is that the whole episode, to the contrary, illustrates the fact that Amazon does not care about readers or publishers: ‘it petulantly pulled stock from the Amazon store without warning — meaning the book-buying public was denied access to around one-sixth of titles published in the U.S., with no explanation.’ And of course it tried to bully this key publisher in a way that ‘eats into the revenue of the publisher, and subsequently authors themselves, by basically insisting that it decide how much to pay them for their product.’
Interesting times indeed. And, call me a fool, I think there’s still a great future for publishing. I’m pleased to be part of it.