Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Amazon vs Hachette : The bad and ...the bad ?

I've stopped reading in details the different comments on the Hachette/Amazon negotiations and the effects they have on authors and customers. Nonetheless, here is my take, at the moment, on the subject:

Even if the cultural market is not a market like every other, it still IS a maket, and follows market's law. At the same time, uncontrolled liberalism can lead to trusts and monopoly/monopsony abuse, so I personally think abuse of a dominant position should be punished. I also think Amazon is really close (if it hasn't yet crossed it) to that line.

My conviction is that Hachette (and with them all the major publishing industry groups) has earned that shitty position, crushed by a superior opponent after having made all the mistakes it could, and let Amazon make all the right choices. A nice change from their abusing position WRT their customers (resellers and readers) and providers (authors).

Mistake after mistake by the publishers on one side, and almost flaw-less execution by Amazon on the other, the best wins.

However, is it reasonable to let Amazon impose its domination without any real competition? to let them "optimize" their fiscal situations, defy laws on working conditions, and destroy the whole economical, social and cultural ecosystem?

I think most of all that anti-trust, social fiscal authorities should stand ready to the big giants (Amazon and BigPublishing both) when warranted, that publishers and resellers should step up to the occasion to Amazon's level (I plan to write a post with some ideas), that publishers should diversify their distribution chanels, to keep a real competition alive.

I also think that publishers should compromise some more on their publishing contracts (including rights reversions) if they want to keep their authors with them (cf, if they don't want to stand alone when Winter is Coming.

So, rather than play the lowest denominator, every player in the books ecosystem (ebook or paper) should  raise to the occasion.

Do they have enough reserves to restructurate/change ? I sincerely hope so. Will they keep that reserve for long ? I fear not. And if they don't resist, only anti-trust agencies/law will be left to keep a healthy competition and mbook market.

The day Amazon crosses the red line, I'll be the first to apploud when it's cut/partitionned. In the meantime, I wait for the others to compete on the merits. Not much has been made there, yet.