By Erin Gallagher
I’ve been hard-pressed this week to find topics hotter than the ongoing Amazon debacle. This all came to a head when customers and authors noticed a change in the “ship by” date for titles from publishing house Hachette. Amazon, known for their consistently lightning-fast delivery times (much to the chagrin of academic book vendors trying to compete for library business), estimated 3-5 weeks for shipping Hachette books. Anyone who has ordered a book from Amazon knows this is not normal, and something must be rotten in Denmark. Let’s check out some updates and various viewpoints.
I found a good explanation here at the Washington Post. They provide a play-by-play of the events leading up to the current hullabaloo, as well as an explanation of historical and future implications of the tenuous relationship among publishers, authors, and massive corporate book sellers.
This New York Times op-ed piece explains the idea of “monopsony”—occurring when a goods provider uses unlawful tactics to lower the prices of the goods they buy—and how Amazon seems to be exercising this power to the punishment of their consumers. Most op-eds seem ready to frame Amazon as the evil empire, but it’s also important to remember that their “predatory pricing” has been greatly enjoyed by consumers for years. Monopolies (or monopsonies) are not created by corporations in a vacuum; does consumer activity and preference not play a large part in determining market domination?
Yesterday, Bloomberg released this piece on the continuing feud and how the same battles may be in store for other publishers (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins) whose sales contracts are coming up for renewal. Don’t mess with my Stephen King! An unintended outcome may be increased sales for other retailers, from the whales (Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble) and the plankton (local bookstores) alike.
Amazon is even getting nailed by high-profile authors like Stephen Colbert, whose most recent book is published by Hachette. Check out clips from Colbert here, as well as Sherman Alexie’s appearance.