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The book world is poised on a knife-edge

2 June 2014

The book world is poised on a knife-edge as the dispute between Amazon and Hachette continues, with no end in sight. It provided an oppressive feeling at BookExpo AmericaBookExpo America, commonly referred to within the book publishing industry as BEA. The largest annual book trade fair in the United States, just ended in New York.

American Booksellers Association chief executive Oren Teicher, at the organisation's general meeting said unequivocally that the industry was 'being held hostage by a company far more interested in selling flat-screen TVs, diapers and groceries... prepared to sacrifice a diverse publishing ecosystem to achieve retail dominance. That's not good for anyone.'

But it is genuinely difficult for publishers to publicly plead their case after the way the law has come down on them in the last few years with the DOJ case. They dare not take any kind of united action. The result of court action and government inaction on both sides of the Atlantic is that Amazon comes ever closer to establishing a monopoly, now it is trying to use that near-monopoly to force an improvement in terms that may eventually genuinely risk forcing publishers out of business.

Amanda Foreman, writing in yesterday's Sunday Times:

‘Amazon, founded and controlled by Jeff Bezos, used the humble book to leverage itself into becoming the world's largest online retailer. It took 20 years for Amazon to emerge as a monopolistic power. Last week, by creating an effective blacklist of authors for use as a bargaining tool against Hachette Book Group, the company showed us how far it would go in its abuse of that power.'

But if you are an indie author self-publishing your work, you shouldn't feel complacent about your position. Being beholden to Amazon doesn't look good news, as their approach shows that they will not hesitate to turn the screws on anyone they deal with if it will be worth their while.

See our links below for more on this story - Smashwords: Amazon's Hachette Dispute Foreshadows What's Next for Indie Authors, How the Amazon-Hachette Fight Could Shape the Future of Ideas - Jeremy Greenfield - The Atlantic and, directly from the author on his website, Read four of the most important paragraphs I'll ever write. | The Official James Patterson Website.