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Amazon vs. Hachette: The Fight for Book Publishing Supremacy of the World!

June 1, 2014
(image via Wikimedia)

(image via Wikimedia)

Sometimes when there’s a public dispute, I like to choose a side before I really understand the complexity of the disagreement. It’s more fun to learn about the conflict if I have a little bit of an emotional stake in it. That way, if my side wins, I can claim that I knew all along that was going to happen. If my side loses, I can pretend I never knew about the dispute in the first place.

Right now, Amazon is in a negotiation dispute with Hachette publishing, and I don’t know who is going to win or who should win, but I’m choosing Amazon before I learn about many of the facts. The details are kind of boring and I’m not about to explain the whole thing, but the outcome might affect my book buying habits, so I’m trying to understand this as much as I can.

Hachette is the first of the major book publishers to renegotiate its contract with Amazon after the collusion fiasco a couple years ago, and a bunch of other publishing companies are closely watching. If Hachette gets buried by Amazon, then the other companies will know not to mess with Amazon. If Hachette can negotiate a favorable contract, then the other publishers will be able to take tougher stands as well.

At first, I didn’t know whom to root for. Both companies make a lot of money, but I buy from Amazon a lot, and I wouldn’t miss buying new books from Hachette. I can’t afford new releases anyway. I understand why people don’t like Amazon. Amazon intentionally takes losses on its books (and makes profits on other items), and other book sellers can’t compete with Amazon’s prices. Amazon could become a monopoly, especially in the ebook business, and people hate monopolies. I’m not wild about monopolies either, but I also hate overpriced new books, and Hachette tends to overprice its new releases.

If I were a major book publisher or a Brick & Mortar Bookseller store owner, I’d probably dislike Amazon too. But I don’t have much sympathy. Brick & Mortar Booksellers didn’t show much sympathy for Mom & Pop Booksellers 15 years ago, so I don’t have much sympathy for Brick & Mortar Booksellers. Also, Hachette was one of the five publishers that got busted for collusion with Apple by the U.S. Justice Department a couple years ago, so I don’t have a lot of sympathy for them either. As outraged as Hachette is acting about Amazon’s business practices, they tried their own underhanded (and illegal) tactics a couple years ago and got caught. They shouldn’t have gotten caught, so I don’t feel sympathy. In fact, I just don’t have much sympathy for any big company, even Amazon, and I’m rooting for them, kind of.

Maybe I should have had sympathy for Mom & Pop Booksellers 15 years ago, but I never did. It’s not their fault. I was always greeted and talked to and watched when I went into a Mom & Pop Booksellers, but I don’t want to talk to anybody when I go into a bookstore. Mom & Pop Booksellers rarely had what I was looking for when I went there, and I always felt guilty walking out without buying anything. Maybe if I had purchased something, Mom & Pop Booksellers would still be open today, but I don’t want to think about that. Then I might start feeling sympathy.

Even though I feel no sympathy for Brick & Mortar Booksellers, I like walking into their stores. I like being ignored by clerks who are either too busy or too cool (it’s never both), and I’m not being sarcastic. It’s weird to see how people who hate Amazon now have sympathy for Brick & Mortar Booksellers when Brick & Mortar Booksellers put Mom & Pop Booksellers out of business about 15 years ago. If Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan do another movie together, Meg would own a chain of dying mega-bookstores and Tom would own the online bookseller superstore that is trying to crush her.

Even though I’m mildly rooting for Amazon right now, I’m not emotionally attached to my position. I won’t raise my blood pressure or START YELLING AT PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH ME!!!!! I might even change my mind. 15 years ago, I rarely changed my mind on issues like this, but I realized that life is easier when you don’t really care about stuff like that too much. Still, it’s fun to choose a side sometimes and then see what happens.

But enough about me. Who do you root for in this Amazon vs. Hachette dispute? Are you emotionally attached to your position? Are you going TO YELL AT ME FOR ROOTING FOR AMAZON?!!!! Do you even care who wins this negotiation battle?  If not, choose a side and defend it, no matter what.  It’s more fun that way.

  1. Amazon because I’ve never heard of Hachette 😛

  2. I am on your side here, I don’t have much favor for Amazon because of it’s monopolistic potential (aside from what it already has reached), but I would side with them because they’re prices are unbeatable. I can only think of Wall-E and how one single company will rule the world, and we can’t help but support them because of crappy working wages! Yay America!

    • If Amazon raises its prices too much and then STILL pays out crappy wages, then maybe I’ll root for its competition.

      Actually, if Amazon raises its prices too much, I probably won’t care if it pays out crappy wages because I’ll be ticked off at the price hike.

  3. Monopoly should stay a board game with fake money and plastic houses. I love Amazon’s prices too, but it’s love that always gets us in trouble. As history has taught us, there must be competition – or cheap can get expensive very quickly, when all other players have taken their balls and gone home…

    • Love does get us into trouble. But I just like Amazon. I don’t think I could ever love Amazon. Maybe I could like-like Amazon, but I don’t think I could love Amazon.

      • I admit it – I love Amazon’s prices – I do. That’s why a person like me is tempted to root for them, but I won’t on principle…let the competition begin 😉

  4. I don’t feel much sympathy for either Hachette or Amazon, so I just hope that Google gets into publishing and bookselling and brings all prices down.

  5. Amazon is in the right… It can charge what it wants for its books and ebooks, theres no rule that says you have to make profit on what you sell ? They make a lot of money elsewhere and can afford to offer them prices. Its effectively and advertising campaign from Amazon, and a shroud one at that. They are now worldwide known as the cheapest book and ebook seller on the planet and therefore the amount of traffic generated as a result is phenomenal. As far as monopolies go… fair play to the orchestrators of Amazon’s fortune; they caught the market. Yeah it sucks for other booksellers but thats life…

  6. It sounds selfish, but I’m for anyone who is favorable to me as a reader and me as an (eventual) published author. Those probably aren’t the same person though. I feel bad for small bookshops, since it’s not their fault that the business environment killed them (except for used book stores) and I do miss going into big bookstores and smelling the books, even if I didn’t buy anything usually.

    • I don’t think it sounds selfish. If it is, it’s less selfish than what the book companies (publishers and book stores) are trying to do. They want to make money, and we want to save money. The money they make is greater than the money we’ll save, so they’re more selfish, if it’s selfish at all.

  7. No, it’s like taking sides in a dysfunctional family of neighbours who have a plate-throwing row )

    • You don’t have to take sides when you’re watching a plate-throwing fight (or any-kind-of throwing fight), but taking sides does make it more interesting.

  8. Judy Cate permalink

    As an older person , you vote goes to Amazon. Their ebooks aren’t heavy to carry, and that’s a plus for me. I also don’t have to drive miles to browse and buy.

  9. I too have to vote Amazon, purely from a price perspective.

    • Another vote for Amazon. This is getting lopsided.

      In other articles that I’ve seen about this, most commenters sympathize with the publishers, but maybe the commenters on those websites are working for the publishers. I’m not accusing them; I’m just wondering.

  10. One thing the tradtional publishers did for many, many, years is over charge. The amount of money they expexted for a book was just silly so I am happy to give my bussiness to e-book publishers and sellers. Technology brings progress and change. The industrial revolution put tons of people out work but then employed many more once the work force had adjusted to the new factories and machines. I’ve also heard that Amazon is taking losses now in order to accrue a huge customer base then they will raise the prices slowly. Netflix is doing the same thing. And as s consumer who is taking full advantage of the reduced, entry level, prices I can’t complain.

  11. I used to buy from Barnes and Noble — there’s a brick and mortar B&N not far away where they charge 30 to 50% MORE to buy a book than to buy the identical book from — and they never have what I’m looking for there anyway. Amazon costs less.

    I never really thought about it. The little bookstores of my youth never had what I wanted either. The few that are still around STILL don’t have what I want, though I love the ambiance. I’m in favor of more publishers and more books on principle, but I buy from Amazon. They deliver quickly and have great customer service. I know they are huge … I remember when they were just starting out. They got this big not only based on price, but on doing what they do very well.

    I never like seeing any publisher go out of business because it’s bad for authors … but I LIKE Amazon. And they pay royalties on time.

  12. I am ignorant and have no opinion, but I like how you think. Everything you said here is spot on. Leave me alone when I walk into your bookstore, but have everything I can think to want to purchase and more. I like your Hanks and Ryan supposition, and I commend your desire to keep sympathy at bay. Stifle that quickly. And as for Amazon, all I can think is that big is not necessarily bad: Coca-Cola sells a lot of Coke, and I still drink it. While I read used books made of paper.

    • I try to have sympathy (or is it empathy?) for individuals, but not for stores or companies or corporations. Maybe I could have had had sympathy for Mom & Pop Booksellers, but they needed more than just me to survive and thrive, so I couldn’t let myself have feelings for them (or it). I hope that doesn’t come across as harsh.

      • It doesn’t. It comes across as realistic. Sometimes life is harsh. It’s supply and demand. No violins playing here.

  13. Reblogged this on The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog and commented:
    Any thoughts on the takeover folks? Doesn’t seem so friendly to us here…

  14. I loved our local bookstore (Main Street in a small town, of course). It was run by two women who knew a lot about books and were very active in the community. They were run out of business by Borders. I had a fairly soft spot for them since I spent time in the original store in Ann Arbor, where I went to school, before it became a blood-sucking behemoth. I hate not being able to browse. I was always a huge impulse buyer. My dad was a huge fan of Amazon, so I’ll go with them.

  15. nradude permalink

    Amazon! Publishers are in the dark ages and ebooks have no reason being more than $10.

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