Now that Amazon and Hachette have signed a contract…

mytwocentsI suppose I should say something now that Amazon and Hachette have ended their dispute by signing a multi-year contract. After all, I’ve had plenty to say about it up to this point.

Essentially, my positions haven’t changed, because the underlying facts haven’t.

When Amazon and Hachette had a contract, both parties were bound to the contract. When Hachette stumbled past the contract expiration date, and fumbled their own deadline for a counter-offer, Amazon was under no obligations to carry Hachette books at all. The fact that Amazon didn’t promote or ship Hachette books as aggressively as other books is beside the point. Selling them at all was a generosity Amazon was under no legal or moral obligation to offer.

Now that Amazon and Hachette have a contract, the same reasoning applies. Both parties are bound by the terms of the contract, and should live up to them. And, when the expiration date approaches, they should behave like professionals and negotiate a new contract beforehand. This is where Hachette flubbed it last time, despite Amazon’s repeated attempts to contact them about it, and why Hachette is entirely responsible for the dispute.

Moreover, while it is still true that Amazon’s scale is economically problematic—something I have repeatedly emphasized—the company is by no means a monopoly or monopsony. Not even by the wildest stretch of the imagination. There are some quite wildly stretched imaginations out there, but once you stretch a concept too far you’re no longer being imaginative. You’re being ignorant or downright dishonest.

Amazon, Apple, and Google might together constitute a burgeoning oligopoly-oligopsony (and, seriously, if you don’t understand these terms, stay out of the discussion) but so do the Big Five traditional publishers. The vicious slandering of Amazon as the only monster in the kingdom has nothing to do with protecting literature, protecting writers, or protecting readers. It’s just crude bias, irrational loss aversion at the waning of the old monsters, and in-group prejudice.

 

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