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Culture

Battle of the books: The Amazon/Hachette conflict's impact on customers

Amazon has deployed some "heavy-handed" tactics against Hachette Book Group as it negotiates a new contract with the fourth largest publishing company in the United States, reported David Streitfeld and Melissa Eddy at The New York Times.

Amazon has discouraged customers from buying Hachette books by delaying shipments, eliminating customer discounts and providing additional discounts on Kindle books. On Thursday, the online retailing giant removed options to pre-order Hachette titles, the Times said.

Hachette isn't the only one unhappy about Amazon's actions.

"Bookstores, libraries, authors, and books themselves are caught in the crossfire of an economic war," best-selling author James Patterson wrote on Facebook, according to Streitfeld and Eddy.

Adam Lashinsky, author of the Hachette-published "Inside Apple," has also been adversely affected by the Amazon/Hachette conflict, but he wrote in Fortune that the real losers in this standoff are customers.

Lashinsky, who said Amazon claims to have a "customer obsession," said the company's actions are anything but customer-friendly.

"Assume for a moment that Hachette is the bad guy here," Lashinsky wrote. "Even if Hachette were behaving badly, I'm scratching my head trying to figure out in what strange universe Amazon believes that making it difficult for its customers to buy Hachette's products is consistent with 'customer obsession.’ ”

Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance disagreed.

"Amazon has consistently been a leader in reducing prices for consumers (and thereby helped publishers sell more books)," he wrote. "Amazon continued the practice when it cracked open the long-dormant market for electronic books starting in 2007. But it lost that ability in 2010 when publishers decided to take control of pricing to consumers, and banned discounting.

"On the other side, book publishers, like movie producers and music labels before them, have resorted to all manner of techniques, including illegal price fixing, to raise prices. And the effect of these foolish price increases has often been lower sales," Pressman said.

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