Hachette v. Amazon: Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?

Amazon and Hachette are fighting over the fundamental pricing of books.If you’ve paid any attention to the book industry, you’ll know by now that Hachette and Amazon are locked in some kind of pricing battle.

The details aren’t that well known, but the strategy is: Amazon disabled the pre-order option for Hachette books, discounts have vanished and some authors have gone completely unlisted.

Meanwhile, Hachette just laid off 30 people (or, in The Wall Street Journal’s more dramatic terms, 3% of its US workforce). The reason? “Softening book sales.”

Hachette isn’t exactly a two-bit publisher. It’s part of a media conglomerate, Lagardère. Famous authors on the roster right now include JK Rowling, Steven Colbert, Malcolm Gladwell and James Patterson.

People don’t really know why Hachette and Amazon are having a stand-off. All they know is that they can’t get the publisher’s books as easily if they’re trying to buy from Amazon. But most speculate that it has something to do with discounting the prices of eBooks.

The real question, then, is this: how do we value books today? And what happens if publishers decide to not renew their contracts with Amazon?

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