Friday, May 23, 2014

Amazon vs. Hachette

Amazon is trying to extract better pricing from one of its supppliers, Hachette Book Group. It's not an unusual practice. Walmart is notorious for it. It's business.

But it's still kind of crappy in Amazon's case. Their negotiating tactic is to steer customers away from Hachette books, mark up prices, eliminate the ability to pre-order, and delay customer shipments (Ten Tiny Toes currently ships in an absurd 3-5 weeks). That means it's crappy not just for Hachette, but for Amazon's customers.

I have a teeny-tiny dog in this hunt, to be clear, but practically speaking, it has no economic impact on me. I'd side with Hachette even if I weren't an author, and even if Hachette weren't my publisher.

You know when you go to Six Flags, how annoying it is when people can cut in front of you in line because they bought a Flash Pass? As a result, the lines become 20% longer. But Six Flags makes more money, so...too bad for you.

Amazon customers now have to wait 3-5 weeks to get books they should be able to get in 2 days. In essence, the "lines" for its customers have become 1,000% longer.

But it's for a good reason: so Amazon can make more money.

I'm not suggesting it's illegal. I'm not suggesting companies shouldn't try to make more money. I'm not even suggesting we all boycott Amazon. (In the words of Alicia Silverstone, "As if.") I'm just hoping more people call them out.

Here's a link to an article in today's NYT.

And here's an email from Hachette's CEO:

Dear Author,

I am sorry to tell you that Amazon has now taken preorder capabilities away from Hachette Book Group publications.  Forthcoming books now bear a notice "currently unavailable" and a note inviting customers to ask for an email when it becomes available.  There is no preorder button, and some not-yet-published books lack a Kindle page entirely.  

Please know that we are doing everything in our power to find a solution to this difficult situation, one that best serves our authors and their work, and that preserves our ability to survive and thrive as a strong and author-centric publishing company.

As we work through this challenging period, it is extremely encouraging to see our retail partners – thousands of chain, online and independent bookstores – showing their support for HBG and our authors. The June 1 New York Times bestseller list is wonderful evidence of this: Books published by HBG include the #1 Hardcover Fiction bestseller (and 4 of the top 10 in that category), the #1 book on the Advice/How-To list, 2 of the top 10 Non-Fiction titles, and many trade paperback, mass market paperback, and ebook bestsellers. 

I know this is not a comfortable situation for most of you, and I appreciate your support and the many messages I've received. 

I'll keep you updated with important developments, but in the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me with questions. 



Michael Pietsch
Hachette Book Group

I have yet to receive a similar email from Jeff Bezos.

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