Author of Amazon exposé cites ‘heavy handed’ tactics as book gets tangled up in company’s Hachette dispute

stonenoAmazon has started blocking users from pre-ordering books published by Hachette — including a book about Amazon itself — as a part of an ongoing contract dispute between the two companies.

Now, people interested in pre-ordering books such as the paperback version of “The Everything Store” or “Silkworm,” the second book J.K. Rowling has written under the alias Robert Galbraith, will find that Amazon lists the books as “unavailable.”

The removal of pre-ordering for the Everything Store paperback is especially notable because the book about Amazon, by journalist Brad Stone, details these types of tactics. The thoroughly reported book was previously panned by Mackenzie Bezos, the wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, in a one-star review on the site.

Stone says in an email to GeekWire this morning, “What irony that a book detailing Amazon’s heavy handed tactics in business negotiations becomes, at least in a small way, a victim of those tactics.”

He adds that Amazon “risks seriously damaging its reputation as a customer oriented company by hurting the book buying experience. We saw it step away from its anti sales tax collection strategy when it began taking a pr hit a few years ago. It may be close to that tipping point in perception once again.”

Brad Stone

Brad Stone

Last week, news surfaced that Amazon was intentionally delaying the sale of Hachette books, and it appears that the pre-order blocks are another step in the company’s attempt to extract concessions from Hachette. Amazon is known for throwing its weight around in contract negotiations, and Hachette looks like an easy target, as the smallest of the big five New York publishers.

“Amazon has now taken preorder capabilities away from Hachette Book Group publications. Forthcoming books now bear a notice ‘currently unavailable’ and a note inviting customers to ask for an email when it becomes available. There is no preorder button, and some not-yet-published books lack a Kindle page entirely,” a Hachette representative said in a statement emailed to GeekWire.

The statement continued, “We are doing everything in our power to find a solution to this difficult situation, one that best serves our authors and their work, and that preserves our ability to survive and thrive as a strong and author-centric publishing company.”

An Amazon representative declined to comment. The news was reported earlier by the New York Times.

These contract negotiations are important, because Amazon uses rock-bottom wholesale prices and extended payment schedules so that it can sell books for as low a price as possible.

As one of the largest retailers in the U.S., it holds a tremendous amount of negotiating power, and the Seattle-based company hasn’t been afraid to use it. Amazon pulled over 4,000 titles from its Kindle Store in 2012 over a dispute with the Independent Publishing Group, and removed the ability to purchase e-books from Macmillian in 2010 over a pricing dispute.

  • Burrito Sauce

    I’ve read the Brad Stone book, and if you’re interested in Amazon, I encourage you to read it also. That said, the notion that, “gee, the wife of Bezos gave it a bad review!” is something to ponder. If I remember correctly, Mackenzie Bezos was upset about Amazon chronology that only the merlot and brie crowd would give two shits about.

    The Stone book didn’t cover the numerous issues – like this one – that look horrible when spread across social media.

    Ham fisted, indeed.

  • Justin Trujillo

    People seem to forget. Amazon is a store not a government service. They have the right to put whatever they chose on their shelves. No one has any right to page space on Amazon. If you don’t like that sales scheme any of these companies can feel free to create their own website and draw millions of potential customers.

  • DAVID ALAN JONES RIDGE

    I do not like the concept of Karma. Karma is Hinduistic therefore it is tightly and closely tied into Reincarnation. Which means that whatever consequences, discipline, or punishment that may be executed on you for immoral or illegal issues may not happen for another four or five incarnations. Which has people ignoring any punishments that can be happening in their current incarnation.
    The axiom, “What goes around comes around” has you suffering for issues that happen in you own specific individual life time. Which is more Biblical that Hinduistic.