Top 5 publisher, Hachette, is no longer bound by the 2012 court-ordered agreement set in place that essentially put Amazon in control of e-Book pricing. The contract, inked with the Justice Department, dictated that because of the top 5 publishers’ “collusion” with Apple, they could no longer “fix” e-Book prices and were subject to renegotiating contracts with their retailers and in effect, e-books were to be sold at the same price to all outlets.
Now that Hachette is free from those reigns, they have made it known that they have no plans on renewing the deal that very literally kept their hands tied for two years. The problem is, Amazon, the retailing behemoth, isn’t too keen on Hachette’s new found vigor for business. After all, the court agreement that tried to stop the top publishers from fixing prices, ironically left Amazon to do just that. Because of the stand still that Hachette and Amazon have come to, Amazon buyers have noticed difficulties when trying to purchase Hachette-published books. And so the battle begins.
In the aptly titled article, “How the Amazon-Hachette Fight Could Shape the Future of Ideas,” from The Atlantic, reporter Jeremey Greenfield highlights the fact that this fight between Amazon and Hachette is not a new or original one. The difference is, what is being battled for here is more than commerce and products, it’s intellectual integrity.
The dispute is about money, but the outcome—whether Hachette gives up on pricing and pays a little more for marketing, or not—is about so much more. Amazon equated Hachette with its other suppliers in its statement: “At Amazon, we do business with more than 70,000 suppliers, including thousands of publishers. One of our important suppliers is Hachette….” Hachette doesn’t feel the same way, according to its response to the Amazon statement: “By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good.”
But, it added, “They are not.”
The real fight here that publishers are trying to express, is that books are not simply products, but ideas. When one company or retailer has this kind of monopoly over the business of ideas, it loses it’s democratic foundation. It introduces the opportunity for bias and censorship on top of crushing other businesses, in this case publishers, who are trying to put out varying and diverse materials.
So the question remains, will books be seen are more than commodities? Will Hachette find it’s footing against Amazon or will Amazon back down? Does this set the tone for other publishers to also fight back against Amazon’s impossible business model?
What are your thoughts?