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Hachette’s Media Allies Strike a United Blow Against Amazon

sovietsuperhero01[1]Earlier today no fewer than 4 media outlets launched simultaneous attacks on Amazon. With a strong coalition of media allies that spans the Atlantic, Hachette now has the obstreperous and obstinate retailer on the run.

Led by David Streitfeld of the NY Times, today’s salvos take Amazon to task for daring to continue to ignore previous media attacks. Featuring a lead photo of Philip Roth in an $800 throne chair, David writes:

Now, hundreds of other writers, including some of the world’s most distinguished, are joining the coalition. Few if any are published by Hachette. And they have goals far broader than freeing up the Hachette titles. They want the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics.

They also want to highlight the issue being debated endlessly and furiously on writers’ blogs: What are the rights and responsibilities of a company that sells half the books in America and controls the dominant e-book platform?

David is joined by, which points out that Amazon is playing political favorites:

Here, courtesy of the Times, is a tale of two Hachette books:

Sons of Wichita” by Daniel Schulman, a writer for Mother Jones magazine, came out in May. Amazon initially discounted the book, a well-received biography of the conservative Koch brothers, by 10 percent, according to a price-tracking service. Now it does not discount it at all. It takes as long as three weeks to ship.

The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” by Representative Paul Ryan has no such constraints, an unusual position these days for a new Hachette book.

Amazon refused to take advance orders for “The Way Forward,” as it does with all new Hachette titles. But once the book was on sale, it was consistently discounted by about 25 percent. There is no shipping delay. Not surprisingly, it has a much higher sales ranking on Amazon than “Sons of Wichita.”

An Amazon spokesman declined to explain why “The Way Forward” was getting special treatment. A spokesman for Mr. Ryan, the 2012 Republican nominee for vice president, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Hachette declined to comment.

zx620y348_1108737[1]And even Canada’s Globe and Mail is getting into the fight, noting that Amazon is evilly harming Canadian authors as well:

The Betrayers, a new novel by Toronto author David Bezmozgis, was published in the United States on Tuesday. But American readers trying to order the hardcover edition from are being informed that the novel “usually ships within 2 to 3 weeks,” a surprisingly long wait for an anticipated new release such as this. The novel’s American publisher, however, is Little, Brown and Co., a division of French conglomerate Hachette, and if you know anything about the publishing industry, you’ll know the company is locked in a months-long war of attrition with the giant online retailer.

And last but not least, The Bookseller scored an interview with Douglas Preston, who explained that Authors United was still not taking sides and was sending the letter to the DOJ more with a sense of sorrow than anger:

In an email to signatories of the first two letters, Preston said: “I am very sorry that this step [the call to the DoJ] is necessary. I had hoped our efforts would have resulted in some gesture from Amazon, which is well aware of the damage it is doing to the careers of several thousand authors. Instead, we have been met with disparagement and what seems to be an escalation in sanctions, at least in terms of the number of books that are affected.”

With this massed firepower, surely Amazon’s knees will buckle, Jeff Bezos' will will break, and authors and publishers will march forward into a triumphant future!

images via the Sofia Echo

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puzzled September 29, 2014 um 4:52 pm

Wow! Solon brought up a point I’d never realised before: different books sell different amounts of units!

Doesn’t the Solon article take the legs out from under the publisher’s argument re pricing: the lower priced book sells more?

Bara Minata September 29, 2014 um 6:09 pm

Salon? Meh 😛
So now 50% market control = monopoly eh.. Funny that.

Dan Agin September 29, 2014 um 10:20 pm

This brouhaha is getting boring. Before ebooks there was B/N. Some 600 bookstores plus superstores that controlled maybe 70 per cent of book sales. Many trade publishers would not sign a contract with an author until the manuscript was seen by a B/N buyer and the book approved by the buyer for ordering by B/N. Big publishers paid thousands of dollars to have their titles on front display tables. Did any author shout about "targeting authors" or bookstore "censorship?" Every bookstore effectively censors books because the proprietor chooses what to offer in the store. Christian bookstores do not sell most books devoted to other religions. Censhorship? Shops that specialize in mysteries do not stock romances. It’s all malarkey. Amazon has no contract with Hachette and so they don’t stock Hachette hardcover books and so they can’t deliver fast. They will take orders but they can’t deliver fast. So what? The same problem exists in any brick and mortar bookshop with its limited stock. Also, there was one more media attack against Amazon today: the PBS Newshour had an interview with the head of the Authors Guild lambasting Amazon in her clumsy way, all without any rebuttal by any pro Amazon guest. The whole thing is stinking up American publishing and people like Roth and Preston and King and the others ought to be ashamed of their ignorance and sheer selfish greed at the expense of the American public.

Dan Agin September 29, 2014 um 11:13 pm

Typo: censhorship should be censorship. Sorry.

Daniel September 30, 2014 um 6:32 am

"Amazon has no contract with Hachette and so they don’t stock Hachette hardcover books and so they can’t deliver fast. They will take orders but they can’t deliver fast."

I’m not sure why not having a contract means that Amazon cannot stock Hachette’s book in their warehouses.

As far as the speed of fulfilling orders, Amazon has accounts with Baker & Taylor and Ingrams. In my experience, they do not take 2-3 weeks to fulfil an order (even when shipping all the way to here in the UK). Meanwhile, my UK book supplier fills orders the same day if they’re received before 5 p.m., meaning the order is received the following morning.

Nate Hoffelder September 30, 2014 um 7:20 am

Except Amazon is selling Hachette books, they’re just not doing all the extra bits they used to. No contract means Amazon doesn’t have to provide the pre-order buttons. No contract means no discounts or promotions are specified, so Amazon charges full price.

And as for the stock issue, there is at least one report that Hachette is to blame:

Daniel October 1, 2014 um 12:26 am

"Except Amazon is selling Hachette books, they’re just not doing all the extra bits they used to. No contract means Amazon doesn’t have to provide the pre-order buttons. No contract means no discounts or promotions are specified, so Amazon charges full price."

Nobody said Amazon isn’t selling Hachette’s books. Amazon are free to do whatever they want. The fact is you do not need a contract with a book publisher to stock their products, discount their products, or provide a pre-order button. Amazon are choosing not to do these things.

Anne September 30, 2014 um 2:34 pm

Inventory and warehouse space to store that inventory costs money whether there is a contract in place or not. Amazon appears to be choosing not to spend that money on Hachette items. Nothing requires them to do so and it is most likely being used as leverage to get Hachette to the negotiating table.

I’ve heard of instances here and there that it really isn’t taking 2-3 weeks to ship most of these books so Amazon is likely overstating the delay but that’s probably to Amazon’s benefit as well. They can say "hey, this is shipping earlier than we expected" rather than having to say that they’re still waiting on Hachette to ship.

Daniel October 1, 2014 um 12:37 am

"Inventory and warehouse space to store that inventory costs money whether there is a contract in place or not."

Inventory is generally paid for in arrears. My invoices are usually due in 30 days and I don’t have contracts with any of my suppliers. There’s no reason I would decide not to stock some of my bestselling items anymore, and only order them on demand.

Peter Winkler September 30, 2014 um 2:18 am

The Eames chair Philip Roth is pictured sitting in can be purchased new for $774.99. Not cheap, but well short of $9,000, whoever arrived at that figure.

Anyway, the financial status of Roth or any of the signatories to the various pronouncements from Authors United is irrelevant to the validity or invalidity of their arguments. One should not be required to take a vow of poverty in order to take a position on the Amazon-Hachette dispute. If AU wasn’t comprised of notable authors, no one would be paying attention, and celebrity usually only accompanies considerable success in one’s chosen field.

Hugh Howey, who led the petition isn’t exactly some poor unknown author, either. Should he recuse himself from commenting on this subject because he’s well off?

puzzled September 30, 2014 um 4:42 am

No one is paying attention.

At least not in the general public…

Nate Hoffelder September 30, 2014 um 7:14 am

I got that from The Passive Voice.

Dan Meadows September 30, 2014 um 8:27 am

I think what we’re finding is that these media outlets don’t possess the cache they once did with the public and these authors don’t have anywhere near the kind of influence with readers they think they do. They’re alternately preaching to the choir of their own sheltered community and shouting at crickets with the buying public. On top of that, theyre annoying the emerging independent writer community with arguments based in what we can only see as ignorance and privilege rather than commerce in support of institutions that have actively excluded many of us for as long as we can remember. Their bank accounts don’t matter but their arguments are filthy with concepts that originate from their own privileged positions.

Ingo Lembcke September 30, 2014 um 2:44 pm

What you fail to realize is, that it is a problem, that most authors in AU are well-known. They have a different goal, then a poor, unknown author.
And of those unknown, poor authors who take side, I (!) see a lot take side with Amazon. I am sick of big authors who want to stop the future happening, as they want to cement the status quo of books, printing and selling for ridiculous prices.

As a buyer I have read most Douglas Preston books, and the last ones (since, say 2012) where not as entertaining. So I will not spend a lot of money anymore on his books, I look around and wait to get them cheap. And as I do not agree with what he has done, I will think even longer about buying another book from him.

Peter Winkler September 30, 2014 um 2:19 am

The link to the $774.99 Eames chair is here:

Eric September 30, 2014 um 8:43 pm

Wow! Did you see the discount on that chair (86% marked down from over $5000). Do you suppose Roth protested the discounting of that chair?

DeeDee September 30, 2014 um 2:25 am

The photos of "soviet superhero" are from my country 😀 . So awesome! It is sad that they cleaned it…

Nate Hoffelder September 30, 2014 um 7:24 am

They’re awesome, yes. And they work so well with the post.

Paul September 30, 2014 um 10:10 am

I think its less of a campaign by the newspapers and more a couple of PR outlets calling journalists and saying "hey, we think there’s a story here, and we’re giving you an exclusive for 12 hrs, then we’ll tell someone else". Then they repeat the message in the next phone call. The media doesn’t work in a coordinated fashion, the business is too competitive for that.

And if you think that’s bad, the vast majority of americans are still completely unaware there’s an election in just over a month. No wonder democracy is dying.

Nate Hoffelder September 30, 2014 um 11:24 am

Someone is coordinating the coverage. The timing is too exact to be a coincidence, and if it’s not organized by people in the media then we’re looking at dupes and patsies rather than conspirators.

Paul September 30, 2014 um 11:36 am

Less dupes, more 1000 words to write and its due by 3pm….

And its more logical that the campaign is being organized by a PR firm than by the newspapers.

JC September 30, 2014 um 10:13 am

Wow… The amount of stupid in this whole thing is astounding. When will these idiots realize that if people really wanted to buy their books, they would just go elsewhere? It’s not like Amazon is stopping anyone from purchasing Hachette books. I mean, if people want to overpriced, formulaic books by authors who seem to think they’re better than everyone else, no one is stopping them from buying somewhere else. Amazon may be seen as evil incarnate by some, but it paved the way for me to have access to books I might not have otherwise living in a third world country. Oh sure the selection’s still limited when it comes to big publishers because they have their antiquated geo restrictions in place (how stupid is it that I can’t buy Tina Fey’s ebook for example because the publisher won’t sell it in this region themselves but are waiting for someone else to purchase the rights to sell here except, wait. This country used to be annexed to the U?S. and any books sold there can be sold here since no one bothered to change that bit of law from before the U.S. withdrew. And look, the imprint belongs to Hachette.), but that’s okay. I discovered a lot of indie and small pub books which have proved far more enjoyable. I wonder when the media and Hachette will realize most people don’t even care about this issue and that one of the main determinants of whether a person buys an ebook/paperback is still the price which these publishers are intent on keeping high? Don’t know about anyone else, but I always price check and compare the prices between Amazon, Kobo, ARe/Omni Lit, and the publisher’s storefront (if they have one) and buy the ebook from the place that has the lowest price. Google always has the highest prices so I don’t even check. Apple doesn’t sell eBooks in my country. 9 times out of 10, Amazon has the lowest price.

Paul September 30, 2014 um 10:17 am

This puts you in a unique position, most people don’t price check, they go for ease of use, and there its really an Apple vs Amazon game (I notice that its becoming rarer and rarer that Barnes and Noble offers the best price for ebooks).

Ingo Lembcke September 30, 2014 um 2:55 pm

Depends on what you are reading. The cheap and free offers which Bookbub collects (daily eMail to your taste) are sometimes cheapest at Barnes & Nobles. In fact, I have bought in the last few weeks a few books there, which where as ebooks cheaper there, than at Amazon or elsewhere.

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