Relationships between Amazon and the publishing industry

By Mackenzie Bush | 5/31/14 12:25am

Amazon and The Publishing Gods have been fighting a lot lately. All of their bookish children have been hearing their harsh words through the walls and are choosing which parent they’ll live with if the couple splits up, and it’s been A Whole Thing.

On one side, Amazon has opened up self-publishing and allows for cool things like daily deals and Kindle Serials and erotica ebooks that no one will ever have to know that you bought. On the other is Hachette, overseers of the Little, Brown and Orbit imprints, which publishes some big-name authors including Nicholas Sparks, J.K. Rowling, and James Patterson.

The two giants are in a tiff over some complicated stuff regarding ebook pricing. Basically, Hachette wants to continue making the retail price on their ebooks ridiculously high (like $14.99 or so), which, even after a wholesale discount, forces Amazon to receive a very little profit in order to price the books at a point low enough that they’ll actually sell. Understandably, Amazon’s not into it, and decided to throw a tantrum.

Amazon pulled all of Hachette’s pre-orders from its site, which may not seem like a big deal, unless you know that pre-orders are a major component in determining the New York Times Bestseller List, which is a major component in determining whether a book will find a place in Oprah’s book club or will be used to line gerbil cages. It is also delaying shipments of all of the house’s books by up to six weeks while trying to steer readers towards books published by other presses instead.

Frankly, it makes me uneasy how much weight Amazon has to throw around. Right now, they are receiving a lot of bad press, and many customers are choosing to purchase Hachette books from other retailers. But if all of Amazon’s competitors go up in smoke, this boycotting will not be feasible. Amazon holding a monopoly on the book market could lead to raised prices at best or censorship and bullying at worst.

I cannot honestly say that I don’t buy most of my books off Amazon. As a college student, I am often allured by Amazon’s dirt-cheap paperbacks, and I’m stupidly infatuated with the backlight on my Kindle. So personally, I’m not ready to pick sides. I’m not someone who thinks that Amazon should be completely dismantled, but I do think that we need to become more protective of our indie bookstores to eliminate any evil masterminds from taking Amazon’s reigns and really making a mess of things.

So maybe every once in a while, probably right after payday, consider supporting a local or indie bookstore, making. That way, we all avoid ending up in a dystopian monopoly hellscape where we can’t buy the books we want and textbooks are even more expensive than they already are, and we still get to enjoy half-priced Kindle vampire erotica. Everybody wins.

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