Amazon is locked into a bitter dispute with French publisher Hachette, but this is not the first dispute, previously it was with Macmillan.
What Amazon is trying to do is drive down the price it pays, it demands ever larger discounts, whilst pretending it is acting for readers.
The techniques Amazon adopts are those of medieval siege warfare.
With MacMillan, the buy button for any of their titles no longer worked.
With Hachette, long delays on a book, advance orders not possible.
The Penguin Random House merger, was an attempt to produce an even bigger conglomerate to challenge Amazon, or at least put up a fight.
Amazon has now not only upset publishers, it has upset writers whose books are not available, it has upset readers who are seeing much loved indie bookshops close.
The current issue is the price of e-books. Amazon wants to set the price at $9.99, Hachette wants $14-99.
Both are wrong, there are zero marginal costs associated with e-books, the price for an e-book should be less than a dollar.
The figure of $9-99 came from if a song is a 99 cents, then let us make a book $9-99. It is also a holy grail $9-99.
There are other players in the market, though they are small fry.
Publish a book and apart from well known best-selling authors, you take a risk. The majority of books go from published to remainder, or published to recycled.
Crowd sourcing removes the risk, you do not publish until you have a guaranteed number of buyers. That is the route Unbound have followed, though their books are expensive, and they have published very few books.
Writers can cut out the middle men, publish a book direct on Amazon, they retain 70%, much better than traditional publisher, but not as good as leanpub.
Disadvantage of Amazon, it is a proprietary format for a Kindle.
Kindle is an inferior e-book reader to a Kobo Touch, and the Kobo Touch uses epub, an open source format.
Leanpub, download in various formats, and with a minimum price, the reader can set what they wish to pay, and they see what goes to the publisher, what goes to the writer. The writer retains the rights.
For an audio book, there is bandcamp. Leanpub is very much offering for the written word what bandcamp offers for music and the spoken word. As with leanpub, the author retains the rights.
Publishers and the book chains have very much themselves to blame for the dire straits everyone now finds themselves in.
Adultery is an international best-seller from an international best selling author. Now if you are in the business of selling books, do you not, if you have an international best seller on your hands, pile it up and sell it fast? Not if you are Waterstone’s or WHSmith.
With Waterstone’s, you may find it on display with new releases, you may find someone who knows what your are asking for.
With WHSmith, it is far far worse. You will not find a member of staff who knows what you are asking for, you will search high and low in the store and not find it, you will probably find it not even in stock. And yet, WHSmith has Adultery on special offer at half price, and a further 20% off with a 20% off voucher. This is less than buying from Amazon. I repeat, cheaper than buying from Amazon.
Publishers are to blame. They offer the chains who cannot deliver, deep discounts, leaving indie bookshops to go bust. Offer the same discounts to indie bookshops, where they know about books, and you will sell more books.
An analogy would be indie coffee shops. An indie coffee shop, serving quality coffee, is more than able to see off the big chains with their disgusting coffee.
Amazon started with books. Books are cheap, easy to ship, fairly indestructible.
Amazon may have overstepped the mark. They are seen as a bully. They have poor working conditions, they dodge tax. They are now abusing their near monopoly position and stranglehold on the book market. Writers who are not published by Hachette may not be seeing their books blacklisted, for now. Their turn will come when the Amazon siege engines pitch up outside their publishers. And if this is what happens to the giant publishing conglomerates, what of the little publishers, where they care about books, where books have not been reduced to commodities, pile em high, sell em cheap?
Books are important, like music and art, they are part of our culture.