Ron Krall: Amazon is playing game of manipulation
June 16, 2014
Steamboat Springs — For the last two weeks, Amazon has been manipulating the books you can buy on Amazon.com.
For example, on some days you haven't been able to buy this year's Pulitzer Prize winner "The Goldfinch" at all, and on other days, shipment has been delayed by one to two weeks. A month ago, you could pre-order J.K. Rowling's new novel due out in June, but not in the last two weeks.
Many of James Patterson's books, including his kids' books, have either been unavailable or on delayed shipment. So, too, Malcolm Gladwell's books. If your son or daughter got hooked on "The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan, you'll find that books two and three may be not be shipping for seven to 15 days.
Why? Because, simply put, Amazon has chosen to make these books pawns in its fight with the publisher Hachette.
Hachette is one of the largest and most respected publishers of both physical (hard and soft cover) books and eBooks. Hachette, like all publishers, regularly negotiates the price at which it sells its eBooks to Amazon. This time around, Amazon has demanded a price Hachette isn't willing to accept. Hachette hasn't said so, but it's clear that Hachette doesn't believe that Amazon's offer fairly rewards the authors, editors, graphic artists and others who make reading books possible.
So what has Amazon done? It has said it won't sell the physical versions of Hachette's books. They have them in stock. The books are available. But try to buy them from Amazon, and Amazon directs you elsewhere, or delays delivery of your order. Amazon is snubbing its nose at Hachette, saying "if you won't sell your eBooks to us at a lower price, we won't sell your physical books!"
Now I understand hard-nosed negotiating. But this tactic offends. It's censorship. It's preventing you, an Amazon book customer, from buying literature you want, and it's doing so to increase its profits.
So far Hachette hasn't budged. It's fighting for the value of authorship and editorial curation. It's fighting against the power of the oligopoly, a power that's being used to deprive the Amazon reading customer of the opportunity to purchase the more than 5,000 books Hachette publishes.
Maybe it's time to rethink your book-buying relationship with Amazon. Amazon makes it awfully easy, and for all of us in a small mountain town, Amazon is often a godsend. But for books, is it time to give Amazon a second thought?
Ron Krall is co-owner of Off the Beaten Path, an independent bookstore in Steamboat Springs.