Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If publishers hate Amazon so much, why do they sell to them?

I haven't been able to wrap my head around the fact that the Big 6 publishers hate Amazon so much that they were willing to risk antitrust prosecution, yet they still sell their books to the company. If Amazon is truly such a threat to publishers, there's a simple solution: Stop selling to them. I'm not a lawyer, and I don't claim to be an expert on U.S. antitrust law, but my understanding is that sellers can refuse to deal with a class of customers, so long as they uniformly apply their standard to all applicable customers. That means that publishers could refuse to sell to online-only retailers. That wouldn't prohibit online sales, but it would require that retailers also sell their books through physical stores.

Imposing this standard would mean that the publishers would no longer sell to Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Sony and other online-only book retailers. Of course, it would make Barnes & Noble a de facto monopoly for online book sales in the U.S.; publishers may find over time that B&N becomes just as demanding and difficult to work with as Amazon was. On the other hand, it would strengthen independent booksellers, which would no longer have to compete with Amazon.

The ball is in publishers' courts--they can cut off Amazon if they want to. The real question is, why haven't they already done so?
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