I guess I would rather have half a donut than none as I really like donuts ;-) Bottom line I am sure Jeff Bezos has heard every one of our arguments and much more. He understands the hits Amazon is taking in this fight and made a thoughtfull decision that it is a fight worth having and the tactics Amazon have chosen are the ones most likely to succeed with the smallest amount of harm to the Amazon brand. In the end I believe a win by Amazon better lines up with my interests as a reader than a win by Hachette. You might recognize this movie quote, "fasten your seatbelts its going to be a bumpy ride", applies here.
Thanks for writing, John!
It's interesting: your interpretation of my comment is that I suggest Amazon cave to Hachette, whereas I would read it as recommending that they stop carrying Hachette if they can't get a good deal...which seems to me to be the opposite. :)
Would there be an uproar if they stopped carrying the Hachette titles? That's speculation, of course. There was displeasure expressed when Amazon removed the "Buy" buttons from Macmillan books...but I would suggest that serious readers were less aware of the inner workings of the deal.
My guess is that leaving half a donut on the table is more obvious and irritating than having no donut. ;) I wouldn't have the title listed with it saying it is unavailable: I wouldn't have it listed at all. When I was saying Amazon should explain the situation, I would do it in a press release or in the help pages.
It's a bit like...when Penguin allowed Kindle books to be borrowed from the library, but only by transferring them rather than downloading them. It just made it harder without stopping it. Either you do or you don't: either Hachette's deal is bad for your customers (as Amazon suggests) or it isn't. If it is, why do you continue to allow it to happen in your store...and then heap on additional complications?
So, to answer your question: " Why do you believe Hachette is entitled to unrestricted and full access to the infrastructure Amazon has created?" I don't believe they are. I don't believe they are entitled to any access at all...that's something that needs to be worked out between the parties, rather than a presumed right. If Amazon stopped carrying them, their customers (as they have pointed out) could still get them through Amazon used and third party...for which the publisher would get nothing (and Amazon would still get a cut).
I appreciate your passion and your well-stated arguments...I look forward to hearing more from you in the future! You might consider commenting directly on the blog: a lot more people will see it that way.
If Amazon used the tactic to remove some Hachette titles rather then make their availability less convenient the uproar would exceed anything we have heard to date. Those same critics would accuse Amazon of "electric book burning". Why do you believe Hachette is entitled to unrestricted and full access to the infrastructure Amazon has created? Based on your analysis it seems that for Amazon to remain true to its stated principles they must give Hachette whatever they want to include a return to the agency model.
Certainly, your summary of the narrow scope of what Hachette has done and the broad scope of what Amazon has done is reasonable. If you look at Hachette just on the basis of the collusion with four other publishers and Apple (based on what the Department of Justice said), your painting would be an accurate portrait.
However, to be fair, I have to say that if you just looked at what Amazon has done during the Hachazon War, all three of the pluses you mention for Amazon would be less defensible. I like Amazon a lot: they are the best company with which I have ever had a relationship. During this conflict, though, they have: made books unavailable (which refutes "providing more reading options" as a universal principle); reduced their discounts (sometimes resulting in the book being considerable cheaper at some other major retailers...refuting "lowering book prices", again, just in this context); and delaying delivery (which, for me, refutes "superior customer service"). Amazon is usually so good and so superior at all of these things that it is part of why I don't like their use of these tactics now. That doesn't mean that I don' t think they can't fix it...but (and I am a former retailer myself) I do think there is something to fix in all three of those cases.
What would I do?
I would not carry the books if I couldn't get an equitable deal. I wouldn't put splashes on the page recommending people buy something else...I find that tacky, personally.
Certainly, that would upset some customers (it did during the Macmillan thing in 2010, which I found justified on Amazon's part). However, you could be up front with people: "We were unable to reach an agreement with Hachette which would enable us to sell you their books at what we felt was a fair price. We hope that we can reach an agreement with them in the future." I'm not sure why it bothers me so much more to have limited availability than no availability, but it does. :)
I do not have a problem with Amazon or its tactics. Disputes between retailers and vendors are as old as retailers and vendors. Retailers give better treatment to vendors they are in agreement with over those they are in disagreement with. As a reader I believe Amazon coming out on top will benefit me more than a win by Hachette. Hachette has a history of colluding with Apple and other large publishers to raise prices. Amazon has a history of lowering book prices and providing more reading options while providing superior customer service. Not a tough call for me.