Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The author of the article could have fairly referred to this dispute as one between two small children, though that would do a disservice to the larger issues at play here.  There seems to be little disagreement that both Amazon and Hachette have been unusually public and unusually vociferous in their battle over the terms under which Amazon will provide its customers with Hachette titles.  It is extremely surprising that they were unable to come to an agreement behind the scenes rather than do harm to their respective corporate images, though one wonders how much this will matter to either in the long run.  For Amazon, it provides such a clear benefit in terms of cost, breadth, and convenience, that it would be surprising to see many of its customers shift away because of the dispute.  On the part of Hachette, the general reader has little, if any, loyalty to a particular publisher.  It is unlikely that they will avoid Amazon or, conversely, refuse to purchase a Hachette title simply because of the dispute.

Corporate infantile behavior aside, the dispute raises questions on a variety of levels.  Amazon's power as a distributor gives it the ability to negotiate in an extremely aggressive fashion, though that is not uncommon in that arena - Walmart.  But as the nature of the consumer marketplace changes, to include the manner in which readers consume written products, whether newspapers, magazines, or books, it seems that conglomerate retailers like Amazon will become more and more relevant.  Relevance begets power, but at what point is Amazon muscling too much out of its suppliers?

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