When Amazon Plays Dirty, You Lose

Illustration for article titled When Amazon Plays Dirty, You Lose

Amazon sends everything you could possibly need or want to your door in two days. That's in addition to a growing stable of movies and TV shows, all for a great price. It's easy to fall in love. But Amazon's recent crusade against one book publisher is a nasty reminder that the company doesn't love you back, and it will screw you to get what it wants.


Earlier this month, Amazon started a shadow war with book publisher Hachette. After contract negotiations between the online warehouse and the New York literary house failed, Hachette books suddenly started becoming more expensive on Amazon's site, and became surrounded by suggestions of other, non-Hachette books readers might prefer instead. Folks who purchased a book in spite of all that could expect delivery times from two weeks and up, with no explanation (and with no shortage to speak of). Looking to preoder a paperback copy of Brad Stone's gutting Amazon exposé The Everything Store? You are inexplicably out of luck.

And it's getting worse. Now Amazon is flat out refusing to take orders for Hachette hits like JK Rowling's newest novel. Meanwhile other popular titles, as the New York Times points out, are available exclusively as $60 audiobooks.

It's not the first time Amazon has flexed its muscles this way; the online giant also just stripped the Buy buttons off thousands of Macmillian titles back in 2010 over an ebook pricing spat. It is however, a handy reminder that Amazon does not have your best interests in mind, and is in fact willing to take a hatchet to its selection just because it's feeling cranky.

While Amazon's relentless push to be cheaper than everyone else—even at the expense of short term profits—definitely has its upsides for lazy customers like you and me, stunts like this Hachette spat call attention to the fact that it's not a ploy to make you a happy customer. By sucking in everyone with cheap, easy, one click purchases and turning competing book stores in to showrooms, Amazon is just accruing more and more power. And when someone gets in the way, you end up as collateral damage.

The good news is that there are still plenty of Amazon alternatives, and there's never been a better time to go give them a shot. You may not be able to find The Everything Store under Bezos's roof, but you can pick it up here. Or here. Or anywhere that sells the books that you want to read. [New York Times]



How is this different than any other industry? In the past few years we've had at least two major healthcare providers and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas trying to strong-arm each other in contract negotiations, to the point where BCBS of TX was notifying members not to go to certain hospitals after a certain date. Remarkably, they were able to come to an agreement just in time. Wal-Mart does this with their suppliers all the time. Only there, you just stop seeing the product at all.

Business is business - if I don't want to accept your price, I don't have to, but I also can't expect you to give me preferred treatment if I don't accept your preferred price.