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Understanding the Amazon war with Hachette

Stashed in: Business Facts, @evelynrusli, Amazon, Books!, Books, AMZN, @gladwell

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Most people, even big readers, may not be aware that Amazon and the major book publishers are in the middle of a cold war that may have big implications for how books are written and sold. In particular, if Amazon wins the "prestige" part of the publishing world -- those big-ass works of history, biography, and literary fiction that take years to write and account for most of the publishing houses' promotional work -- may not be economically viable any longer.

The question I have is: Was Amazon anticompetitive when it bought Goodreads?

Goodreads gave publishers some hope that they could solve discovery; it may also have given them hope that they could solve a more immediate problem: Amazon. By the time Borders went bankrupt, in 2011, and closed all its stores, Amazon was selling more print books than anyone; was selling more e-books than anyone; was beginning to have success with unknown authors publishing directly in the electronic format; and, most important of all, was the go-to site for book-buying research and recommendations. Amazon was the publishers’ biggest customer but also, increasingly, a competitor, and also, increasingly, too good a customer.

Publishers were becoming aware that they were overly reliant on Amazon. In 2011, several publishers announced a joint venture called Bookish, which was going to be a recommendation engine-slash-online bookstore, maybe even an Amazon competitor. But the Web site was a flop. Publishers weren’t very good at creating tech start-ups, but luckily Goodreads had already done it. Maybe the digital future wouldn’t be quite as scary as all that.

Then, in March 2013, for an undisclosed sum, Goodreads was bought by Amazon.

"Amazon has turned on us." ~Hachette author Malcolm Gladwell


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