In the ubiquitous, and increasingly annoying, coverage of the Amazon–Hachette dispute, it’s common for those who side with Hachette to assert that Amazon is a “monopoly” without really understanding what that word means.* One example is Steve Wasserman’s… 539 more words
Today, the Chronicle of Higher Education has an article by Jennifer Howard about how university presses are forced to tread carefully with Amazon. While Amazon boosts sales, it is also extremely difficult for small university presses to negotiate “over e-pricing and other issues.” As the largest seller of books, it is not surprising that Amazon accounts for approximately a third of most university press sales. Additionally, Amazon makes it easy for scholars to get books especially difficult to quickly get even from university libraries. More than one scholar has ordered a book from Amazon instead of waiting for an interlibrary loan. Still, university presses are intimidated and somewhat overwhelmed when they negotiate contracts with the massive online retailer. Presses are expected to agree to discounts, pay money to Amazon to get their books promoted, and accede to e-book prices that work for Amazon. University presses have little choice deal with Amazon very carefully. Unlike Hachette Book Group, university presses are incapable of challenging Amazon the same way. [caption id="attachment_1745" align="alignnone" width="259"] Will this destroy book publishers?[/caption] This dovetails nicely with this post at that the Misfortune of Knowing that asks whether Amazon is a monopoly. Hachette Book Group is currently negotiating with Amazon over discounts demanded by the retailer to sell their e-books. Publishers have thrown around terms like monopoly and monopsony when describing Amazon. A.M.B. argues that in the Hachette case, Amazon appears to be neither a monopoly or a monopsony (a buyer that is powerful enough “force suppliers to start discounting against another.”) In many ways, university presses face the same pressures as Hachette, but they have fewer options. Ultimately, Hachette will probably be forced to agree to Amazon’s demands because there are fewer and fewer alternatives to Amazon everyday. [caption id="attachment_1853" align="alignnone" width="300"] Remember what these little guys did to the record business?[/caption] One of the most interesting aspects of the growing rift between publishers and Amazon is it highlights how publishers essentially ceded control of the publishing business to Amazon and Apple. Publishers no longer control the technology of books because they never created a Kindle or successful e-reader of their own. It was the booksellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple) that created e-readers instead publishers. Instead of selling hardware (books), publishers are now in the software business (e-books). When they lost control of the hardware that books are read, they lost the ability to control their own fates. In many ways, the publishers dilemma is identical to the predicament faced by the music business. Unfortunately, publishers are probably facing a similar future to the record companies unless they take control of their businesses.