Important Update (10:22 p.m.): Amazon seems to be loosening their grips, perhaps because of how readers have gone to other retailers to buy Hachette titles, but an agreement has not been made yet. Here’s the article: Amazon Is Now Re-Stocking Some Hachette Titles
If you haven’t heard, Cold War II is happening between publishers and distributers right now – specifically Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown and Company’s parent company) and Amazon – but there are others involved, including Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and …oh, yeah…AUTHORS. (Because the fighters seem to forget to mention the authors.)
I am going to attempt to talk about it. But – here’s the most confusing part – since Amazon and Hachette are respecting their signed confidentiality agreements, neither is speaking specifics. They are talking in their secret club tree house, and you’re stuck on the ground because they are not going to throw you the rope ladder anytime soon. You are not invited. This “signed confidentiality agreement” is a fancy way to tell us that they aren’t allowed to be honest yet, even though they are quite possibly discussing a shift in the market that could affect dozens (probably hundreds) of publishers, distributors, and authors. Rumor has it that they are arguing about eBook prices, including revenue splits. Whatever mysterious, Illuminati decision they come to could set a precedent for all publishing houses and authors of the future. (Okay. So that might be a tad dramatic, but seriously – it could affect a lot of people.)
So what’s the big deal? This has happened before after all, but this – THIS – is different. How? If you want more specifics, here’s a bunch of articles that explain some of the dirtier details: Hachette Chief Leads Book Publisher in Amazon Fight – Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, Slash Prices as Hachette-Amazon Feud Continues, Inside Amazon’s Battle with Hachette, Bringing Down the Hachette.
In summary: one of the five, BIG publishing houses is being threatened by one Amazon warrior. And Hachette is only the first…and they don’t look like they’re winning. In fact, Hachette seems to be retreating to protect their other retailers first. (Gaining alleys maybe?) But the terrifying part is the repetition of it all. Amazon has tried to take out publishers before – BIG publishers – and it seems that they want the five owners of the monopoly to fall to one. (One being Amazon, of course.) I know. I know. It’s easy to rejoice in the five falling, especially when you’ve been rejected by them one hundred and fourteen times, but allowing Amazon to take their place is more than a bad idea. It’s self-destructive. If you have ever played the family friendly game of Monopoly, it is not fun when your older brother owns every piece on the board. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ve just lost the game when that happens.
Have I scared you yet?
I hope not.
I am going to sound like I just flipped 180 degrees, but I don’t think this is something we need to be scared of. (Not yet, anyway.) I don’t believe Hachette and Amazon’s high school drama is something we should obsess over. Should we watch it unfold? Yes. Understand as much as we can? Yes. Share the information as the two companies share it? Absolutely.
Since we don’t technically know anything, we can’t keep talking about nothing. We should share what we know with others, but we have to stop crowding our articles with theories and lies and lack of links for information. We’re only confusing one another. We can, however, talk about what has happened.
After Amazon blocked pre-orders of Hachette books (including the geniuses that are David Sedaris, James Patterson, and Robert Galbraith a.k.a. J.K. freakin’ Rowling) Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart have stepped into the ring. Oh, did I mention that Wal-Mart is holding a %40 off sign? (on “select titles” of course.)
Yep. That just happened.
You can go to Wal-Mart right now and buy James Patterson (and whichever second author wrote his latest novel) for %40 off – and Amazon can’t do anything about it. Barnes & Noble can though. They are also displaying major discounts, even reportedly selling buy 2, get one free. FREE at certain locations.
As the reader inside of me rejoices, the author inside of me dies.
Why is no one talking about the authors? Granted, I know that Amazon and Hachette are on a Top Secret Mission to save or destroy their authors (who knows?) but every article discussing the latest events are focusing on the giant companies having their way, both claiming to help authors, neither explaining how because of the signed confidentiality agreements. (I can almost picture other publishing houses chanting, “Secrets, secrets are no fun, secrets, secrets, tell everyone!”) But Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble are steering clear of the actual battle while still reaping the awards of it. In fact, Wal-Mart has reported a %70 increase in sales.
When two get in a fight, two others jumped right in. I guess I’m not against the brawl necessarily. I can’t pick a side when I don’t know what everyone is fighting for. But I am concerned about the authors – you know, the ones who actually WROTE the stories we’re trying to buy (or buying at a %40 discount.) And I am nervous to see the results of Amazon picking this battle with Hachette.
Will Amazon lose its reputation as a customer focused company? Will Hachette’s authors ever see their rewards? Will Amazon fight other publishers next? Will Barnes & Noble or Wal-Mart deepen their involvement now (or even in the future)?
One thing is for certain though.
Readers and authors are the innocent ones. They aren’t battling. They can’t. And they are the ones who are being affected the most.
P.S. If you’re asking yourself, “What can I do about this?” – label this my call-to-action:
Stay informed, watch for new developments, and share the information with as many people as you can.