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Amazon escalates standoff with publisher Hachette

Amazon-Hachette Dispute Heats Up

By HILLEL ITALIE

NEW YORK (AP) - If you're hoping to pre-order books by J.K. Rowling, Michael Connelly and other Hachette Book Group authors, you'll have to go somewhere besides Amazon.com.

An ongoing standoff between Amazon and one of the leading New York publishers has intensified. The online retailer, which already had been slowing delivery on a wide range of Hachette titles, has removed pre-order buttons for such books as Connelly's "The Burning Room" and Rowling's "The Silkworm," a detective story coming out next month that she wrote under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Previous changes had been more subtle. The listing for the paperback of J.D. Salinger's "Nine Stories" says delivery will take three to five weeks and offers "Similar items at a lower price," including a collection of Ernest Hemingway stories published by Scribner.

"We are doing everything in our power to find a solution to this difficult situation, one that best serves our authors and their work, and that preserves our ability to survive and thrive as a strong and author-centric publishing company," Hachette said in a statement Friday issued through spokeswoman Sophie Cottrell. Later Friday, Hachette released a more strongly worded statement, saying they were "sparing no effort and exploring all options."

Amazon declined to comment. Numerous Hachette authors have criticized Amazon in recent weeks, including Sherman Alexie and James Patterson, who on his Facebook page noted that the purchase of books written by him, Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Sparks and others had been made more difficult.

"What I don't understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers," Patterson wrote. "It certainly doesn't appear to be in the best interest of authors."

Amazon and Hachette are reportedly at odds over terms for e-book prices, at a time when Amazon is in a position of strength and vulnerability. The Seattle-based company is the most powerful force in the book market, believed to have a share of more than 60 percent of e-book sales and at least a third of book sales overall. Rivals have struggled to compete with Amazon's discounts and customer service.

But recent earnings reports have been disappointing and Amazon's stock prices, which surged for years despite narrow profits, have dropped sharply in 2014.

"Giant Internet-only companies make no profit but are still worth billions," Alexie, whose "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" is among the books being delayed by Amazon, wrote in a recent tweet. "Wish poetry worked that way."

Amazon has a history of aggressive actions with publishers, most dramatically in 2010 when it removed the buy buttons for releases by Macmillan, where authors include Jonathan Franzen, Bill O'Reilly and Augusten Burroughs. The issue was also e-books; Apple was about to launch its iBookstore. Macmillan, Hachette and other publishers, worried over Amazon's $9.99 offerings for popular e-books, wanted Amazon to accept a system established by Apple - the agency model - that would allow publishers to set the prices.

Amazon relented, but the system unraveled after the U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple and five publishers in 2012 for alleged price fixing. The publishers, including Macmillan and Hachette, settled and a federal judge in New York last year ruled against Apple.

Other books currently being delayed or otherwise disrupted include Tina Fey's "Bossypants," Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" and Brad Stone's "The Everything Store," a critical portrait of Amazon and founder Jeff Bezos.

Join the discussion

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Spud May 24 2014 at 11:15 AM

I too get my share of ebooks from Amazon. However that said, each and everyone of us should be pointing our collective fingers at the greedy publishers and the authors they represent. Seriously, the same book the charge, for example, 10 bucks for in actual book form, they also charge 10 bucks for in e form from pete's sake! It takes practically nothing for them to put these things on line for e purchase and yet charge the same price? That's not just outrageous, that's out and out highway robbery! Amazon is not the bad guy here. You want someone to blame, look to the publishing industry who is trying to maintain the same choke hold they've had on consumers for years!

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3 replies
blucola May 24 2014 at 2:20 AM

And yet one can walk in Barnes and Noble and I will cheerfully order and pre-order titles for said person, tell them the way they can get it cheapest and smile the entire time. Customer service with a living, breathing human! Who'd have thunk? By the way, I have hundreds of Nook books and not one has ever disappeared from my online library.

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1 reply
wlh1923 blucola May 24 2014 at 7:26 AM

The only time I have ever used Amazon for books when my son was in college and he was looking for a could of obscure titles on bovine encephalopathy for a biology seminar. Beyond that if I want a book I want it now and will go into B & N and buy it. I am not interested in price shopping to save 12 cents when I buy a book. I don't do ebooks and all that nonsense and have never felt the need to pre-order anything.

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2 replies
Ginna wlh1923 May 24 2014 at 8:22 AM

e-Books are less expensive overall and take up no space. If I want to read a book I don't want to purchase I simply go to the library.

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Mind wlh1923 May 24 2014 at 12:58 PM

So Amazon is actually useful when people look for obscure titles and authors.

eBooks isn't nonsense. It's a legitimate alternative, one that's poised to take over the publishing scene in a not-so-distant future.

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BEAUTIFUL BARB May 24 2014 at 8:55 AM

Amazon is the good guy not the bad guy. They are trying to keep the publishers
from gouging the readers as they tried to do with Apple.
So you can't pre-order, so what. Just get the book after it comes out. I have found that if you wait a week or two the publishers see that readers are not going to pay the original price and they lower it by about two or three dollars

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3 replies
richikid May 24 2014 at 1:05 AM

we can get ANYTHING elsewhere !

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1 reply
investigatorkch richikid May 24 2014 at 1:15 AM

sure you can punk

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1 reply
Daddy investigatorkch May 24 2014 at 9:37 AM

grow up you mutt

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jasonzavoda May 24 2014 at 11:37 AM

The big dead-tree book publishers are not a bunch of good-guys and with the advent of eBooks I'd like to see them lose their power over what is and is not published. In this respect Amazon is a 'good' guy.

But I think they should be able to charge what they want for an eBook and let the market show them if they are wrong or right. I doubt the reasoning is quite so simple. It occurs to me that initial higher prices for eBook for popular authors might drive the print copy sales up, but that seems like a foolish act of desperation.

Honestly, printed books seem like they are going to be a niche market down the road and the future is E. I love dead-tree books, but with a bad eye it has become difficult and wearisome for extended reading. With the kindle (and I am sure with other eReaders) I can change the font and my kindle can read the books to me. I also have a monstrous library of books at my fingertips.

What Amazon has accomplished is 'good' even if they not be.

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1 reply
jasonzavoda jasonzavoda May 24 2014 at 11:38 AM

they may not be.

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1 reply
benja26 jasonzavoda May 24 2014 at 3:12 PM

They are good. if I can buy anything from an Electric Frying Pan to a Bouquet of Flowers with only satisfactory results what could be bad about that???? I can buy a Kindle from them, and when I had a problem with it, they immediately sent me another one and sent a prepaid label to send back the other one, no charge! I have bought Jewelry, electronic accessories for my I-Phone all without hassle, free shipping and satisfaction every time. What's not to like???

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Warren322 May 24 2014 at 11:21 AM

I am a huge reader, whether a hardcopy book or on my Kindle Fire. I am also a big fan of Amazon where I purchase 100% of my e-books. The price is right for me. I currently have about 10-12 hardcopy books in my home library that I have not read yet, so I have not gotten a hardcopy book for a while. I enjoy reading hardcopy because I am a senior and I can get it in large print, but I also like reading on my Kindle because I can change the size of the fonts. I hope that Amazon and their pre-order supplier can work out their differences, because I do not think you can get e-books any cheaper than on Amazon and some of them are free.....Like the complete works of Sherlock Holmes only cost me 99 cents....

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1 reply
Mind Warren322 May 24 2014 at 1:05 PM

Exactly Amazon's point. A complete works of Sherlock Holmes print book would cost much more and rightfully so. It costs 99 cents because it's in the public domain and the cost of a digital edition is next to nothing, meaning the price-parity between prints and digital editions is artificial, enforced by the publishers.

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hlsalzber May 24 2014 at 9:20 AM

amazon is not as good in customer service as it used to be..they ignore emails and don't settle in favor of the customer as much now..and their trade in program is a swindle.

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4 replies
Mike May 24 2014 at 9:25 AM

If it's good for amazon, it's bad for me.

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1 reply
Mind Mike May 24 2014 at 1:02 PM

Because you own eBay?

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jpepoon May 24 2014 at 1:29 PM

I always want authors to get full recomense for their work. The publishers help a good bit in crafting the final product. Then Amazon steps in and handles the retail sales/distribution. Each has an important role to play to bring the work to the public. Amazon has become so important in the overall retailing process for sure, but I would like to see the other two "legs on the stool" get equity too. Hope they can work out the sticky details and reach an agreement that is equitable for all!

Jim

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1 reply
jpepoon jpepoon May 24 2014 at 1:33 PM

Correction - word is "recompense" not recomense......proof reading must be better!

Jim

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Owen May 24 2014 at 9:24 AM

I have no desire, to read any of those crappy books anyway.........

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