On Friday night, Amazon pulled all Macmillan-published authors' books from the Amazon.com site. You can still see the books listed, but you can't buy them from Amazon.com, only from third-parties. The dispute was over e-book pricing, but as a bargaining chip, Amazon decided to pull print books as well. This is like using a bazooka to swat a fly.
I'm not published. I'm not an industry insider. I'm a reader, and as a hope-to-eventually-be-published writer, an interested party.
I don't dispute Amazon's right to not sell certain product. I don't have a strong opinion either way about the value of Macmillan's proposal, because I don't know enough about the industry. I do know that a lot of authors I know and respect are now having their income streams slammed by a dispute in which they have no voice at the table.
I disagree with readers who say "Amazon is protecting the consumer by demanding a $9.99 price point". As a reader, I did not understand the costs associated with a) writing a book b) publishing a book. But if one takes the Macmillan statement below at face value, Amazon is actually turning down potentially lower pricing. This is not consumer protection. From this consumer's perspective it smells of oligopoly price-fixing. At what point does it veer into anti-trust?
This is not a case of authors being greedy. Most authors don't even control the sale price of their books - once their contract is signed with a publisher, that control is out of their hands. If your sales numbers are in the four figures (not uncommon), you're not making much as an author. Especially if the book took you more than a year to write.
In my opinion, this is a case of a near-monopoly distributor putting the smackdown on someone they are negotiating with, and in the process hurting a lot of authors who have absolutely nothing to do with the dispute.
In a free market, Amazon is perfectly within their rights. I also have the right not to purchase products from a company whose negotiating tactics I find distasteful. I will never buy a Kindle. I will be placing book orders elsewhere. In support of the many hard-working authors I know whose livelihoods have been impacted by Amazon's heavy-handedness, I will be taking my business elsewhere.
A legal take by C.E. Petit (via Charles Stross)
Andrew Wheeler (also via Charles Stross), points out this isn't the first time.
[1:45 PM] Edward Champion with more links to monopoly & price discrimination resources
[4:35 PM] An update from Amazon.
[8:30 PM] Scott Westerfeld
[10:15 PM] John Scalzi's highly entertaining evisceration of Amazon's PR failures.