Amazon has been playing dirty in the shadows with publishing house Hachette all month. Now it's openly admitted that it's playing hardball with the company.
Amazon has written a blog post explaining what's happening with Hachette. Those browsing Amazon will have noticed that Hachette books have suddenly started becoming more expensive, in many cases are unavailable, and are even impossible to pre-order in some cases. Amazon explains why that's the case :
We are currently buying less (print) inventory and "safety stock" on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future. Instead, customers can order new titles when their publication date arrives. For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order at which time we order the inventory from Hachette -- availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Hachette to fill the orders we place. Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to the customer promptly. These changes are related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon.
Amazon insists that while "suppliers get to decide the terms under which they are willing to sell to a retailer" it's "reciprocally the right of a retailer to determine whether the terms on offer are acceptable and to stock items accordingly." It's true! But it goes on to defend itself by explaining that when it negotiates with suppliers, it's "doing so on behalf of customers". As we've written before, that's not exactly accurate:
While Amazon's relentless push to be cheaper than everyone else -- even at the expense of short term profits -- definitely has its upsides for lazy customers like you and me, stunts like this Hachette spat call attention to the fact that it's not a ploy to make you a happy customer. By sucking in everyone with cheap, easy, one click purchases and turning competing book stores in to showrooms, Amazon is just accruing more and more power. And when someone gets in the way, you end up as collateral damage.
Sadly, Amazon also explains that the two companies have "so far failed to find a solution" and that it's not confident a resolution will be made anytime soon. In other words, it will stubbornly carry on acting like this until it gets its way. Still, there are still plenty of Amazon alternatives. Now might be a good time to try 'em out. [Amazon]