Editor's note: This post has been updated.
We already knew that Amazon has been putting the screws to book publisher Hachette and its authors with hardball business tactics. But now we learn from The New York Times that Amazon may also be playing political hardball, giving special favors to one very special Republican.
Amazon, which controls more than a third of the US book business, and the giant Hachette Book Group have been in a bitter dispute since last spring over the pricing of e-books. Saying it wants to save its customers money, Amazon has demanded that Hachette lower the price of its e-books to $9.99; Hachette has refused, saying it wants to retain the ability to set prices for its own books. So, in a heavy-handed display of power, Amazon has been delaying deliveries and withholding discounts for all books from Hachette—and damaging writers’ careers in the process.
With at least one exception:
Take, for instance, the different treatment Amazon has given two new Hachette books on political themes.
“Sons of Wichita” by Daniel Schulman, a writer for Mother Jones magazine, came out in May. Amazon initially discounted the book, a well-received biography of the conservative Koch brothers, by 10 percent, according to a price-tracking service. Now it does not discount it at all. It takes as long as three weeks to ship.
“The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” by Representative Paul Ryan has no such constraints, an unusual position these days for a new Hachette book.
Amazon refused to take advance orders for “The Way Forward,” as it does with all new Hachette titles. But once the book was on sale, it was consistently discounted by about 25 percent. There is no shipping delay. Not surprisingly, it has a much higher sales ranking on Amazon than “Sons of Wichita.”