Amazon.com is a monopolist bully, or so goes a spate of recent criticism against the e-commerce giant.
The company is getting pummeled with bad press lately accusing it of engaging in “brutal,” “evil” tactics, comparable to Vladimir Putin’s moves on Ukraine or — even worse — a monopolist violating antitrust laws.
The criticism comes as Amazon is battling with Hachette, the 5th-biggest U.S. book publisher, over terms of future sales. While negotiations drag on, Amazon isn’t offering its typical discounts on Hachette books and is telling customers shipping will be delayed. Starting on May 22, Amazon stopped taking pre-orders for upcoming Hachette titles..
Hardball tactics aren’t unusual in the world of retailing, but the Hachette negotiations with Amazon have taken on outsized importance in the world of publishing. And if you love reading and care about the future of books, you should be rooting for Amazon to come out on top. Why?
After the big publishers got caught colluding to force up ebook prices, they agreed to allow lower pricing and discounting to resume for a few years. That few years is coming to an end, and Hachette is the first (and the smallest) of the big four publishers to face new negotiations with Amazon under fewer court-imposed strictures. The outcome could determine whether the book industry grows and remains vibrant or fades into irrelevance as consumers turn their attention elsewhere.