Amazon and Macmillan

Want to buy the original Macmillan published version of the General Theory today from You can’t. Amazon has deleted it and every other Macmillan title from its store over a dispute between Amazon and Macmillan over eBook pricing. Let me repeat: every book not just eBooks for the Kindle. So if you wanted to by the latest from Orson Scott Card, as I did, you have to go through other retailers. I don’t have a Barnes and Nobel account but may get one today because what I liked about Amazon was that it was likely to have every title.

It is hard to understand what is going on. This post is as informative as it gets. It looks like Macmillan would like to charge more for its eBooks and to receive a greater share than Amazon is willing to give. Fair enough. In other places, that has led to titles being removed that are part of the dispute. But to extend that to the bigger and otherwise stable broader book market is a more troubling move. Of course, the deletion is only for the US. You can still get Macmillan books from, for example. This indicates that Amazon is willing to use whatever power it may possess in book retailing in general to get what it wants in eBooks in competition with many new, but less well-known, entrants.

This happened in Australia, not in books, but in bread. Safeway in Victoria deleted entire lines of bread from a given manufacturer from its stores when smaller outlets were found to be discounting standard loaves. The Federal Court found that to be an anticompetitive act and Safeway faced substantial penalties. Amazon is surely heading down that path itself.

[Update: confirmation of all this from Macmillan].

8 thoughts on “Amazon and Macmillan”

  1. Um, isn’t Macmillan guilty of retail price maintenance? Illegal in Oz and ( as I understand things) the US?


  2. MacMillan are fools, trying to get gross margins from ebooks that are comparable to old-style dead-tree publishing.

    The economics of publishing have changed; technological barriers to entry have disappeared. So those old margins will never be sustainable. Indeed, because costs are so much lower they are not even needed to make a profit (as music companies are already finding). If MacMillan carry on like this they will not just have trouble with their distributors, they will also lose their authors to publishers willing to pass on the savings in higher royalties.

    Bottom line: Amazon is indeed guilty of a greedy and reputation-destructive act of anticompetitive bastardry. But Amazon’s greed, unlike Macmillan’s, is running with the economic tide so will win out.


  3. Apparently, Amazon and Macmillan have resolved their dispute. However, I recommend trying or the when looking for books, especially. aggregates prices from a very wide range of booksellers, not just Amazon and its affiliates. The has free shipping to far away places like DownUnder.


  4. Personally, I’m on Amazon’s side. They are in effect trying to act as a single consumer: refusing to buy a good they think is overpriced. That flows on the consumer — ie you and I.


  5. On another Amazon note, I only just discovered that my Kindle allows you to change the country of the Kindle back and forth very rapidly. In just two minutes I changed the registration of my kindle to America and back in order to buy a book unavailable to Australian customers.
    Amazon must be aware of this loophole, so I can only assume that they’re putting the ability to seel any of the their kindle titles anywhere over an ability to price discriminate by country.
    Which makes me happy.


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