David Gaughran has a great blog post looking at the Amazon/Hachette affair in a less “poor little Hachette” light. It’s good to see this piece join this other blog piece and this Forbes story pointing out that there’s another side to the matter than the one Hachette’s partisans are pushing.
Gaughran points out there are multiple possible explanations for what we’re seeing. The problem is that we haven’t really heard any of them. Indeed, apart from a couple of non-detailed, PR-laden emails from Hachette, we haven’t heard much of anything from either side.
And if we don’t know the exact nature of the dispute, we can’t pronounce judgments as to whether Amazon is being unfair or using their market power in anti-competitive ways. If the latter is true, Hachette has a remedy open to it: the courts.
Gaughran also points out that the big-five publishers are almost all part of major media conglomerates that have the ability to put whatever unfavorable spin they want on the matter in a decent-sized chunk of the press, Hachette included. These are the same publishers who felt the need to collude illegally because Amazon wasn’t playing ball with them. It’s not surprising they would take a hard line of their own in further negotiations.
There’s some interesting discussion in the comments, too, as Gaughran discusses some of the arguments over the dispute and about the anti-trust case. For example, he points out:
This meme about the “bias” or “incompetence” of Judge Cote is one put about by the large publishers and their supporters. It fails to recognize that this was an open-and-shut case. It also fails to recognize that the publishers’ actions (and Apple’s actions) have led to similar antitrust investigations in jurisdictions all over the world – which Judge Cote has nothing to do with – and which have led to similar outcomes.
It’s worth a reminder that, in December 2012, Apple and four publishers came to a settlement with the European Union to end an antitrust investigation there into agency pricing and most-favored-nation clauses, agreeing to legally binding conditions to ease pricing restrictions. Judge Cote didn’t have anything to do with that…
Given that this is the first negotiation between Amazon and a publisher after the agency pricing fallout, it’s going to set a precedent for the negotiations with the other publishers down the line. Hence, both sides must be feeling a lot of pressure to get the best deal they can for themselves for the effect it will have on their, and other publishers’, futures. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.