When it comes to Amazon’s explanation for why it’s negotiating with Hachette, interpretations vary.
According to Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, the comments offered by Russ Grandinetti, Senior VP of Kindle, to the Wall Street Journal yesterday were little more than a recap of Amazon’s earlier stated goals: keeping ebook prices low for the benefit of customers.
While Hoffelder is skeptical that’s the whole story (many believe co-op fees are also at issue), he says it’s hardly news. “I too would like to know what Amazon really thinks and their true motives,” he writes, “but at this point we still don’t really know what that is.”
Over at Publishers Lunch, Michael Cader disagrees. In his view, Grandinetti’s remarks amounted to a revision “of the core principle that has guided Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos for the past 20 years.”
Curtailing customer’s accustomed privileges, at least when it comes to some Hachette titles–like removing pre-order buttons from top titles like J. K. Rowling’s The Silkworm–has already led some to call into question Amazon’s adherence to its customer-first mentality.
In telling the WSJ that Amazon is prepared to risk some harm to its reputation, Grandinetti, as Cader sees it, has confirmed that there’s now an important qualification to the retailer’s central policy. By its own account, he writes, “Amazon now has insight into the difference between consumers’ long-term interests and their immediate ones, and has empowered itself to put the former above the latter.”
Whether drawing that distinction constitutes a true shift in Amazon’s approach is up for debate, as is the question of whether Grandinetti’s remarks shed any new light on it. Still, the fact that it’s being interpreted differently by industry experts underscores how much could potentially be at stake in the ongoing dispute.
Whatever the outcome, it’s likely to have major repercussions throughout the publishing ecosystem. Digital Book World is sitting down with David Streitfeld, the New York Times reporter who first broke the story of the Amazon-Hachette conflict, and Laura Hazard Owen, who covers it for Gigaom, for a free webcast on July 9th to discuss what those consequences might be and ways publishers and authors can prepare. Here’s how to register.
Learn more: Amazon, Hachette and the Future of Publishing