Amazon is now telling customers that they can't pre-order Hachette titles -- a move that could prevent some Hachette authors from reaching the best-seller list. The retailer also says that consumers who order a book that's already in print could have to wait a while for it to arrive. “We are currently buying less (print) inventory and 'safety stock' on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future,” Amazon says in a statement. “For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order at which time we order the inventory from Hachette -- availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Hachette to fill the orders we place.”
The retailer adds that it is “not optimistic” that the dispute with Hachette will be settled soon.
Many of the details of the dispute between Amazon and Hachette remain unknown. But Amazon's critics wasted no time questioning the company's tactics.
“Blackmail works best. That seems to be Amazon’s negotiating strategy, at least,” the Authors Guild wrote in a blog post about the dispute. “Amazon’s strategy is designed both to show its market dominance and to engineer a rift between Hachette and its authors.”
The Authors Guild also reminds readers that it opposed the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Apple and publishers. “Two years ago, when the five publishers teamed with Apple to take a stand against Amazon’s e-book dominance, the Justice Department went after the publishers, not Amazon, implicitly sanctioning Amazon’s monopoly and allowing anti-competitive tactics like this to continue,” the Authors Guild writes.
In 2012, the DOJ accused Apple and five publishers -- including Hachette -- of violating antitrust laws by conspiring to increase the price of ebooks. In the past, Amazon priced bestsellers at $9.99 per download, reflecting a deep discount. The publishers were able to put an end to that pricing by deciding as a group that they would only sell books to retailers if those retailers agreed to sell books under an “agency” model -- meaning the publishers would set the price, and the retailers would get a percentage. Apple, which was accused of orchestrating the scheme, was found liable last year. The company is appealing that ruling.