Business Technology

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Amazon tests its dominance in row with Hachette

Published 27/05/2014 | 02:30

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Book author Michael Connelly
Book author Michael Connelly

Online retailer Amazon has started a new battle with publishers in a test of its market dominance.

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The internet shopping giant, which controls a majority of the online book market, has restricted the sale of some titles by global publisher Hachette following a disagreement.

The move has sparked concern that Amazon may be using its market dominance to set new conditions for publishers seeking to use the online retailer for sales and distribution.

The row has resulted in upcoming books by Hachette authors such as JK Rowling having their online 'pre-order' buttons removed, while other Hachette authors' titles have been removed from Amazon's website. The company has declined to comment on the row.

"Currently, Amazon is making it difficult to order many books from Little, Brown and Grand Central, which affects readers of authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, me, and hundreds of others whose living depends on book sales," said author James Patterson on Saturday.

Last year, Amazon won legal battles with Apple and several book publishers in the US and Europe, after courts and regulators struck down an agreement that would have allowed publishers to more closely control the price of books sold online. Opponents of the judgments warned that Amazon's market power was gaining at a level that threatened the future of publishers and authors.

Amazon argued that free competition, including the ability to undercut rival retailers, was in the best interests of consumers and readers.

Recent figures from Nielsen Bookscan indicate that the Irish printed book market is down 10pc so far this year, following five years of decline.

However, Irish publishers are hoping that new VAT rules on ebooks will slow the current slump in print sales.

Under new EU rules, from January 2015 VAT will be applied at the place where ebooks are purchased instead of the location of their sale.

There are no consolidated figures for ebook sales in Ireland. However, publishers here put the figure at between 10pc and 20pc – with fiction titles providing the highest ebook sales.

Irish Independent

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