First publishers hate Amazon, then they want legal action to require them to sell books? That’s the sentiment from bestselling author James Patterson, who’s bemoaning his lost income now that Amazon has taken down the pre-order buttons on a number of Hachette Book Group’s upcoming titles, as well as imposed lengthy shipping delays on titles from the publisher until they come to an agreement on bookselling terms.
The last time the government was asked to step in on a bookselling issue involving the publishers and Amazon, it didn’t go well for the publishing industry.
Interestingly, the inability to purchase titles has nothing to do with the ebooks at this time, as Amazon is as cunning as they are gutsy. The last thing the online retailer wants is for its customers to have a reason to test out the iBookstore instead of that free iPad app they currently use.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has taken this kind of boycott-action against a publisher for not agreeing to its terms, but it’s also not the first time any book retailer–online or otherwise–has refused to stock, discount, sell, or promote a specific publisher’s works. It’s actually quite a common occurrence in the four hundred-year-old industry.
But neither side is talking about the specific terms of the contracts that are apparently so tumultuous and so immovable as to cause Amazon to retaliate. What is interesting is the perspective from the usual Amazon haters (you know, the people who don’t mind getting rich off the sales that Amazon makes happen?), with cries of the “pain and stress” that Amazon has caused the publishing industry as a whole, and the loss of author livelihoods now that the evil empire is withholding book sales. It’s interesting that some are calling for legal action and government intervention in this issue, but do we really anticipate a commercial society where book retailers are required to sell every title that comes along, and at whatever terms the publishers mandate?
When the government intervened over the very issue of book pricing, the fallout was far reaching and remains unfinished. Hundreds of millions of dollars were lost by publishers, and the anticipated amount expected to be owed by one tech giant is nearly one billion dollars. While no one suggests Hachette cave to whatever terms Amazon is demanding while holding its titles ransom, the industry would be wise to remember that not dealing with Amazon is what publishers have been after for some time. But if Amazon isn’t careful, this could be the final straw that spurs publishers into finding a new way to sell books.
Mercy Pilkington is a Senior Editor for Good e-Reader. She is also the CEO and founder of a hybrid publishing and consulting company.