It may not be immediately obvious, thanks to the shifting habits of readers, but book publishing is still very big business. Most of that big business – approximately 41 percent, according to the Codex Group — is controlled by Amazon. Because of that market control, Amazon has a lot of power, and for most of 2014 it has been flexing its muscles, especially in the face of Hachette Books.
This all started, like most recent problems in publishing, with ebooks. This year, many publishers’ contracts with Amazon were up for renewal, and Amazon was looking to change the way profits from ebooks were shared. Hachette doesn’t like the idea. The proposed change would give Amazon 30 percent of the sales, while authors and publishers would split 70 percent. Oh, and Amazon wants to cap the price of ebooks at $9.99, too. For those of us who are far removed from the actual cost of making books, that might make sense. Printing is what makes books so expensive, right? Well, in actuality, that’s not the biggest factor in the cost of producing books.
Because of Hachette’s refusal to play by Amazon’s rules, Amazon has, like most bullies, kicked Hachette off of its court. This means that the thousands of new books by Hachette’s authors are not eligible for pre-order and take an absurdly long amount of time (several weeks vs. the usual 2-5 business days) to be shipped to readers.
What gets lost in this fight — a fight which is taking place, as noted by Sherman Alexie, between giant corporations — is that the authors are the ones who are suffering. And lord knows authors suffer enough already. They stayed quiet during the first months of this fight, hoping, probably, that some concession would be made in favor of humanity rather than corporations. But as the cold war that is Amazon vs. Hachette drags on, more and more big-name authors are speaking out against Amazon’s bullish practices. Here’s what they have to say.