Amazon vs. Hachette: The Cliff Notes

amazonhachetteIf it’s one thing I despise–in me when I catch myself doing it and in others when I hear/see it–it’s an empty-headed, knee-jerk argument.

Whether it’s from a lack of knowledge, a confirmation bias, or intellectual laziness, when one side of a debate has bothered to gather supportive facts and present a considered argument and the other just parrots old information or rehashes only what they want to hear, it makes me want to pull my eyes out (or my ears, if I have to listen to it).

I feel particularly frustrated when I’m the one that’s factless in an argument…and twice that if it’s something I care about.

Empt Cans Rattle the Most
So when it comes to the recent media shitstorm over Amazon’s bullying of Hachette (and make no mistake, that’s how it’s being painted in the media, since Big Five publishing owns massive chunks of modern media), I know enough to be informed and to even get past my own biases as a self-published author (hint: I’m with Amazon on this one), but not enough to argue cogently with someone who takes the opposite view.

A little research on some trusted sources goes a long way. For those of you who similarly despise meritless arguments and wanted to know more about the case for Amazon against Hachette, I thought I’d supply some of my own recent discoveries.

Read these over the course of an hour or two, digest them, and you might be able to take on Stephen Colbert on the subject if you’re ever invited to his show or tackle James Patterson pretty much anywhere, since his arguments are so poorly thought out. Enjoy!

First, the scorched earth approach: Joe Konrath’s take here and here (though with an appeal for balance from Michael Sullivan).

Then, David Gaughran’s intimidating body of research on the subject, gathered in one post.

Next, Barry Eisler stops the Amazon Hate Train in its tracks and dumps cold water on a couple of know-it-alls in the Comments.

Lastly, Hugh Howey steps in, calmly dismantles every possible argument in the defense of traditional publishing’s position, and leads us to a brighter future.


Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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7 comments on “Amazon vs. Hachette: The Cliff Notes
  1. A fine list there Matthew, thank you!

    • Matthew Iden says:

      You’re welcome. I’m thinking of putting together an FAQ of sorts, too. The Konrath’s and Gaughran’s of the world breathe this stuff, but I have to take time to dip back in to remember all the ins and outs.

  2. Matthew Iden says:

    Adan – I like Andrew’s post, though I get a little flinchy when arguments are boiled down to superlatives to advance the thesis (for example, I think few authors who have really studied the situation think of Amazon as a white knight riding in to save indie writers’ bacon. We’re all very aware that Amazon is a multi-billion dollar corporation trying to create dominant market share).

    But his general thesis is sound, which is why I’ve been so disappointed with Kobo. I thought–with a few hundred million dollar infusion from Japanese retail giant Rakuten–Kobo would actually arise as decent competition for Amazon, but they can’t seem to get out of their own way with terrible search engine implementation, few promotional innovations or tools, and damaging business stances (their shutdown of erotica, if I remember correctly).

    Also, as I come to learn more about the industry and the historical friction between Amazon and legacy publishing, the more aware I am of some of the mismatched arguments going on. For instance, you’ll notice that Konrath, Howey, et. al. point out rightly that Amazon is a DISTRIBUTOR and the Big Five are PRODUCERS. It’s a trope that’s been beaten to death, but it bears repeating that any producer could, at any time, sell its books somewhere else, including its own storefront and take the nascent book distribution monopoly away from Amazon within a relatively short time. So comparisons of Amazon’s “monopoly” vis-a-vis the Big Five, which is central to Andrew’s approach, are not accurate, which bugs me. 🙂

    But the big picture remains the same, which is why I still like the post: whether we’re talking producers or sellers, monopolies or cartels, authors still need to look out for themselves or each other as a whole because, well, that’s what everyone else is doing. In the case of Hachette, I believe it’s at the expense of authors and indie writers. In the case of Amazon, it’s not…yet, but we should stay smart and fight for healthy competition, transparency, and fairness.

    • Matthew, thanks so much for going over Andrew’s post. I really liked your last few words, almost sounded like a Constitution for Authors 🙂

      “healthy competition, transparency, and fairness”

      And it’s not hard to see how this is sorely needed in so many areas of our everyday life. Your new article on the end of TV (as we know it), and all the competitive forces working there, is a great example.

      Books themselves are a subset (even if very important one for many of us) of creative content. And often an originator of an outreach of creative variations, on TV, movies, plays, etc.

      Plus with subscription services clamoring at the gates, negotiations between entities like Hatchett and “the” entity that is Amazon 🙂 may involve more than we suspect.

      After all, if it easy to surmise the end of cable companies, it’s not hard to imagine where other business models would also need to change.

      Either way, I’m glad you’re compiling these cliff notes. I know I need them!

      Thanks Matthew,


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