Amazon / Hachette: What You Aren't Being Told By Best-Selling Authors about the Online Retailer's Dispute with a Major Book Publisher

This Oct. 17th, 2014 CBS report leaves the impression that Hachette authors are being "strangled" and can't sell their books. 

That's misleading. 

They can. 

Walmart, Barnes & Noble and many other outlets are selling Hachette books. 

Yes, one big online retailer, Amazon, has reached an impasse with Hachette: 

Amazon has refused to sell Hachette ebooks for $14.99 or $19.99 - the price points that Hachette wants. 

But why should a famous author like Doug Preston - explaining in an annoyingly patronizing way that ebooks aren't toasters - win this one? 

If Amazon doesn't want to carry Hachette books at Hachette's price point - shouldn't that be their right? 

In fact, Doug Preston's assertion that ebooks aren't toasters kinda supports Amazon's argument: 

Ebooks can be profitably sold in large numbers at $9.99 precisely because - unlike physical items like toasters or Old World books - there are "no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs” etc. 

In my view, Stephen King, Doug Preston, John Grisham et al are on the wrong side of the First Amendment, antitrust law and the history of commerce and technology. 

I understand why they want higher prices for their ebooks... but forcing Amazon to sell their ebooks for more than Amazon wants? 

Consider how, in Congressional debate back on April 8th, 1890, Senator George Hoar, an author of the Sherman Antitrust Act, made an argument that suggests why an even-more-dominant-that-it-already-is Amazon (a monopsony?) insisting on a $9.99 price point for all ebooks probably would not be considered a monopoly: "[A person] who merely by superior skill and the whole business because nobody could do it as well as he could was not a monopolist… [but was if] it involved something like the use of means which made it impossible for other persons to engage in fair competition." 

In other words, as long as there are other outlets for Mr. Preston's books, his complaints about Amazon's treatment of Hachette authors don't amount to a violation of law or, in my view, a compelling argument that free expression or the rights of authors to be fairly compensated for their work have been infringed.

No comments:

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.