Letter from the editor.

Position:Editorial
 
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AS WE GO TO PRESS, Amazon.com is taking a hard line in its pricing negotiations with the French publishing company Hachette Book Group, one of the largest publishing houses. Hachette is home to authors Malcolm Gladwell, James Patterson, J. K. Rowling, Michael Connelly, and many others. As Amazon seeks to share the cost of deep discounts for Hachette's titles, in particular its e-books, and thus lower the publisher's profit margin and increase its own, the bookseller is displaying its muscle. It is delaying shipment of Hachette books, blocking the pre-order button on its Web site, and removing the discounting that moves titles. Amazon's actions have highlighted its outsized power in the publishing industry and caused great frustration among the authors whose book sales are suffering.

Besides the obvious issues of abuse of power (though the influential Hachette is certainly no David to the Goliath), the conflict points to another important issue: By trying to reduce the amount of money it pays publishers, Amazon is undermining editors and their ability to serve readers well. To my mind it is appropriately symbolic that the chief executive of Hachette is a former editor and not strictly from the business side of the company. Michael Pietsch rose through the ranks at Little, Brown, and as a young editor he acquired, championed, and edited David Foster...

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