Amazon has been accused of bullying Hachette, the smallest of the so-called "Big Five" publishers. There has been lots of mainstream coverage of the issue, but what this situation really highlights is the stupidity of Eric Holder's Department of Justice and its campaign against Apple's iBooks Store.
The New York Times first shined a spotlight on the issue when David Streitfeld reported on May 9th that Amazon was using a variety of passive-aggressive bullying tactics to force Hachette Book Group to give the retail giant better terms.
"Most of the time," Mr. Streitfeld wrote, "[Amazon] has all sorts of ways to encourage you to buy a book: faster shipping, cheaper shipping, a discount, a cheap copy from a third party who was cleaning out his closet. Now, like a river reversing its flow, it is using all sorts of ways to get people not to buy Hachette titles: more expensive, slower shipping, pitching something else instead."
Those tactics listing shipping times at 2-3 weeks for physical Hachette-published books when Hachette says that Amazon has the books in stock; ending or greatly lowering the discounts Amazon is so (in)famous for; and even recommending that users by other books through banners displayed above some Hachette titles.
Here's a great tweet from @JamieFord on the topic.
Amazon's goal is to force Hachette to give it better terms for ebooks so that Amazon can either lower its prices even more or eke a little profit out of its books. In the process, These moves have hurt authors and small imprints distributed by Hachette, and most likely Hachette itself, and it's made possible by Amazon's enormous share of the book retail market.
Coverage on the topic has included stories about how Wall Street has finally gotten tired of Amazon not making a profit on its tens of billions in annual sales. In this line of reasoning, Amazon is finally getting motivated to do something about its lack of profit, and it wants those profits to come at the expense of Hachette, and eventually other publishers.
Other articles have looked at how these moves have affected authors, who have seen sales of their Hachette-published titles plummet.
"Amazon removed virtually all the discounts from Hachette titles starting on Feb 7, 2014," author Michael Sullivan told The Times. "Books in pre-orders or VERY recently released books, still have discounts, but all the other books (both print and ebook) are being sold at full price."
Some have speculated that Amazon hopes these authors will turn on Hachette and force the company to meet Amazon's terms.
Another article that was picked up in the comic community is the effect Amazon's bullying is having on comic books and manga. ICv2 reported, "All [Hachette-owned Manga imprint] Yen Press titles we checked were being sold at full MSRP, a rare occurrence in Amazon book retailing."
Next: The Apple Shaped Elephant in the Room