Jeffrey Bezos, CEO, Amazon
Michael Pietsch, CEO, Hachette
Ref: BURY THE HACHETTE
Dear Jeff and Mike:
Hey, how’s it hanging? By way of introduction, I am an author based in the skies, 38,000 feet above India. We haven’t had the privilege of meeting although Jeff, if you are tracking your daily sales MIS, I am bestseller #3,174,159 on Amazon as of this morning. Just another few million odd books to cross to the top 100, at which point I will be expecting a celebratory cake from the best bakery in Seattle.
Let me set the context of this letter with “Begaani shaadi mein Abdulla deewana”, an awesome Hindi phrase that essentially means that despite no significant role in your dispute, I am diving in anyway. To be honest, I didn’t even know that you both were squabbling until I saw two interesting letters. One was from nine hundred authors to Amazon and I glossed over the content, eager to see whether I had been considered influential enough to be one of the signatories. Sadly, there was no Piparaiya between Pinto and Plame. The other was an email that I received from the folks at Kindle, reading which I gleefully exclaimed, “Honey, someone has hacked into Amazon’s account.” And then hesitated “Erm, maybe not”.
So while information on your brouhaha is sketchy, this is what I have gathered so far:
- Mike is a publisher and sells his eBooks at a price that Jeff considers too high.
- Jeff is a retailer and believes that Mike is not only pricing eBooks too high but also colluding with other publishers to do the same.
- So Jeff told Mike “Lower the price, shithead”, Mike told Jeff, “Bugger off, Jack wagon”, Jeff told Mike “I have 40% market share and I’m going to whoop your ass.”
- And a smack down started.
The good news is that I dozed through a few economics courses in college and have two young kids at home; a lethal combination which makes me an expert on resolving conflicts such as this. Look Jeffrey and Michael, one of the coolest theories in economics is that of free markets. In a free market, no one artificially controls or regulates the price of any good or service. Consumers demand goods and suppliers supply them. The price automatically reaches equilibrium basis how much consumers want the good and how much supply is available in the market. It’s all a function of demand and supply.
So Mike, if you and your buddies have been artificially keeping prices of eBooks too high, that’s just wrong. And Jeff has a very valid point when he says that books don’t compete with other books. Books compete for a prospective reader’s attention more than they do for his or her wallet. And we now live in a world where the avenues to occupy one’s attention are continually getting more sophisticated and cheaper. So Mike, it’s in your long-term interest as a publisher to adapt to the needs of a new world and supply books, in a form and a price, that the market willingly accepts.
Now Jeff, if Mike is wrong in artificially inflating prices, aren’t you equally wrong in forcing him to artificially lower them? Last I know, you were a $150 billion for-profit corporation and not a self-anointed bastion for cultural change. Mike should be able to price his books however he wants – if readers disagree, they won’t buy and sooner or later he will reduce the price. And you really can’t be bullying your partner by intentionally delaying delivery of his books, offering your customers alternate reading options etc. Jeez Jeff, come on.
Look guys, you just need to hit a pub, grab some beers and talk it over. This conflict is hurting authors and readers – the two key constituents for both your organizations.
Alternatively, I will have to go with the other option and you both will be grounded. And no iPad for a week.