hachette job

Captain America is the newest victim of Amazon’s quest to control everything

August 10, 2014
August 10, 2014

Amazon has stopped selling pre-orders of some of the year’s biggest movies from Walt Disney in its latest contract dispute. The titles affected include Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maleficent, and Muppets Most Wanted. When Quartz searched for the Captain America sequel on the US site, the Amazon Instant Video stream was available but no physical copies on Blu-ray or DVD were offered.

Amazon has not commented on this dispute, but this isn’t the first time the world’s largest online retailer has used the tactic. Earlier this year, it held up the mega-hit Lego Movie in a dispute with Warner Bros. over the terms of its contract. Usually, these disputes blow over fairly quickly. But one contract negotiation continues to haunt Amazon—and expose its business tactics. In its original business of selling books, Amazon has stopped offering titles sold by Hachette in a dispute over how the publisher wants to price the e-book versions. “Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good,” Hachette has said. “They are not.”

The retailer (again) has stopped taking pre-orders of certain Hachette books, and slowed down the delivery of others. But it has also explained itself for the first time on Readers United, a site that it owns. “Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book,” it said. Amazon’s books team asked readers to email the Hachette CEO, cc-ing them, saying canned lines like:

We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.

The collusion refers to the fact its great rival, Apple, and five publishers were convicted of colluding to set prices on e-books. The publishers—including Hachette—all settled in that case with the US government, and Hachette is the first since then to negotiate new terms with Amazon. The last time a book publisher lengthily opposed Amazon’s terms, it removed the Buy button from its pages and sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission accusing it of illegal behavior.

Don’t bet on the same thing happening to Disney. But for now, Captain America—who has beaten the Red Skull and seen off an alien invasion with the Avengers—is struggling to defeat his greatest foe yet, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

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