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Bring in the Negotiators: Amazon vs Publishers Continues to Shaft Writers & Readers

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that Amazon is now “refusing orders” of upcoming Hachette titles:

The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J.K. Rowling’s new novel. The paperback edition of Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon — a book Amazon disliked so much it denounced it — is suddenly listed as “unavailable.”

In some cases, even the pages promoting the books have disappeared. Anne Rivers Siddons’s new novel, The Girls of August, coming in July, no longer has a page for the physical book or even the Kindle edition. Only the audio edition is still being sold (for more than $60). Otherwise it is as if it did not exist.

Right now the link to Stone’s book seems to be working, but Siddons’ Amazon book page shows the book as “currently unavailable.”

With Barnes and Noble flailing and Amazon flexing, everything seems to be pointing to writers creating their own sales centers for their books.

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Publisher Hachette says Amazon is deliberately delaying orders of its books, including Stephen Colbert's America Again. - peoplewhowrite

Publisher Hachette says Amazon is deliberately delaying orders of its books, including Stephen Colbert’s America Again.

It’s time for publishers, Amazon, and bookstores to squash their beef. It’s hurting readers, and making it even more difficult for writers, especially new ones, to find an audience and generate strong sales.

Today’s New York Times reports that Amazon is “marking many books published by Hachette Book Group as not available for at least two or three weeks.”

Writer David Streitfeld elaborates:

A Hachette spokeswoman said on Thursday that the publisher was striving to keep Amazon supplied but that the Internet giant was delaying shipments “for reasons of their own.” …Generally, most popular books are available from Amazon within two days. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

If your impulse is to “show” Amazon by buying the book from Hachette’s website, you’ll be greeted with a message that reads: “Ebooks purchased from the Hachette website will not work on a Kindle eink device or within Apple’s ibook reader. To read ebooks purchased via Hachette you’ll need a free Adobe ebooks account.” The thing is, most people who read e-books, do so on a Kindle.

The fact is, Amazon, which has a 65% share of the e-book market (that accounts for 30% of total book sales revenue), and the traditional publishing industry have been inflicting pain on each other for several years now — but neither has shown they can win outright control of the publishing market.

When Amazon opened a publishing arm and recruited industry power player Lawrence Kirshbaum to head it up, they could not recoup the advances they paid their bestselling and celebrity authors because Barnes and Noble refused to stock their titles. A recent piece on Forbes (that references George Packer’s 13-page feature on The New Yorker) shares that Amazon gave Penny Marshall an $800,000 advance, but the title sold 17,000 copies. Bestselling cookbook author Tim Ferris had a similar experience when he published a book with Amazon.

Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble has been struggling to maintain its 141-year foothold in book selling as more and more readers seek the discounts and convenience Amazon offers. B&N felt Simon and Schuster was not standing in solidarity with them to face the challenge, so they reduced orders of S&S titles by as much as 90%. Last July, the bookseller’s CEO resigned, a month later they mended fences with S&S after an eight-month standoff that likely impacted sales of debut authors most. Just last month, Barnes and Noble Chairman Len Riggio sold $64 million worth of the company’s stock.

It’s clear that publishers, Amazon, booksellers, AND writers need to lock themselves in a room and figure this madness out i.e. learn from each other, once and for all, because neither has shown they can do it on their own with consistent success. As industry heavyweights Molly Stern, Eric Simonoff, Jonathan Karp and Reagan Arthur admitted in a panel last November, “Amazon’s focus on the customer–-from discount pricing to the convenience of delivery and expediency of the Kindle–-is an incredibly difficult thing to compete with, but also admitted their current business model can’t withstand the eradication of the chain bookstores.” Symbiosis, people. Please!

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11 responses to “Bring in the Negotiators: Amazon vs Publishers Continues to Shaft Writers & Readers

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