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Monday, June 2, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell Says Amazon Is Betraying Their "Partners"

Posted by on Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 12:03 PM


On Friday, I published a story explaining why people are finally boycotting Amazon. What started as a dispute between Amazon and publishing company Hachette has turned into a public airing of grievances against Amazon. Even authors who have embraced Amazon in the past are becoming creeped out by the online retailer. Malcolm Gladwell, who is published by Hachette, gave an interview to David Streitfeld of the New York Times' Bits Blog about how his book sales have suffered:

It’s sort of heartbreaking when your partner turns on you. Over the past 15 years, I have sold millions of dollars’ worth of books on Amazon, which means I have made millions of dollars for Amazon. I would have thought I was one of their best assets. I thought we were partners in a business that has done well. This seems an odd way to treat someone who has made you millions of dollars.

What is happening to your sales?

They have been profoundly affected. Where Amazon used to sell two copies, now it sells one. It’s a pretty big decline.

Things must be getting serious for Gladwell—the original pro-business, nicey-nice corporate cheerleader—to go on the record like this against Amazon. And he's not alone.


Comments (18) RSS

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yelahneb 1
May I AXE you where you got that photo
Posted by yelahneb on June 2, 2014 at 12:08 PM · Report this
fletc3her 2
Amazon doesn't care about authors. Books were just the easiest thing for them to start with because they are relatively simple to catalog and ship. Books are now just another set of SKUs in the database and authors are UIDs.
Posted by fletc3her on June 2, 2014 at 12:11 PM · Report this
Gladwell blames Amazon and not that people have caught onto and tired of his treacly message?
Posted by Why are there cars? on June 2, 2014 at 12:20 PM · Report this
dnt trust me 4
It looks like one of Jen Grave's photos. The dude who axed the wall of the Frye museum. That was from about a month ago. I don't expect anyone to remember, there's so many exciting news bulletins on Slog every 30 minutes or less. Based on the lack of comments on her posts compared to Paul Constant and others, barely anyone gives a shit about art anyway.
Posted by dnt trust me on June 2, 2014 at 12:26 PM · Report this
sasha 5
Amazon has gotten away with rather dubious corporate behavior because they kept their customers and content suppliers happy. Now in the name of increasing their market share they have decided to piss off their customers and content producers royally. This is why we hate them. In other news I went to an actual bookstore for the first time in about a year recently and had the most lovely conversation.
Posted by sasha on June 2, 2014 at 12:53 PM · Report this
Arsfrisco 6
closed my account. #AllDoneWithAmazon
Posted by Arsfrisco on June 2, 2014 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Bezos has been working toward King of the Hill status since the beginning. He's always dictated terms that were more favorable to him as a retailer than any other retailer contracted, and didn't mind taking losses in the process of achieving complete monopoly. Anyone who didn't see this coming was not watching his business practices in the first place. And anyone who did but shrugged their shoulders has to be considered as complicit in Bezos's drive for monopoly. Fletc3her at #2 has it right -- books were just the easiest object for Bezos to begin with. Don't forget, too, that Bezos has a terrible, cheap record as a non-philanthropist despite his personal success.
Posted by Calpete on June 2, 2014 at 1:22 PM · Report this
AFinch 8
Never quite drank the coolaide and haven't bought that much through them, but also haven't quite closed the account yet. Music and books (mainly just on the kindle).

The only reason they started with books is that it looked like the easiest target for #disruption for a sociopath (Bezos). I'm belatedly but increasingly appreciating this and I don't think I'm alone.
Posted by AFinch on June 2, 2014 at 1:31 PM · Report this
Fnarf 9
Not to defend Amazon or anything, but maybe Gladwell's sales are off because everyone who's susceptible to his line of fluffery has had their fill? I'll bet his sales are off in outlets that are not Amazon as well.
Posted by Fnarf on June 2, 2014 at 1:32 PM · Report this
Is this the same Hachette that colluded with Apple to raise the prices of e-books, conspiring to raise retail e-book prices and to otherwise limit competition and restrain retail price competition in the sale of e-books?

They sound like good people.
Posted by GoodPartner on June 2, 2014 at 1:36 PM · Report this
I think it is telling that Gladwell thought of himself as a 'partner' with Amazon. Actually, I think it is hilarious. Deluded much? Now maybe he can bring this new perspective of labor vs management/owners to other fields... and quit being such a cheerleader for corporate money and culture. Reality bites, doesn't it, Mr. Gladwell? Don't blink or another one of your well-polished delusions may fall by the wayside.

Anyhoo, Amazon has been a grifter from day 1 - its whole existence is based on years and years of not charging sales taxes, a huge tax-payer subsidy.
Posted by screed on June 2, 2014 at 1:49 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 12

It's also the same Amazon that pulled the ability for ComiXology customers to buy their comics through their iPad app. And the same Amazon that bought and paid for the Justice Department's investigation into Apple's collusion with big publishers, while the Justice Department looks the other way in regards to Amazon's monopolistic practices.

Amazon's totally good people.
Posted by keshmeshi on June 2, 2014 at 2:07 PM · Report this
So because Amazon isn't good people, then Hachette must be?
One is bad, so the other must be right?

I'm only seeing one side of this story. What is it about their contracts they don't like? What is Hachette asking for in their contracts that other publishers are not? How much of their sales do they pass on to their average authors? They've colluded before to drive up prices. Why are they all of the sudden a victim?
Posted by GoodPartner on June 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM · Report this
slake 14
I wonder how Gladwell feels about his partnership with WalMart or my Mom's garage sale.
Posted by slake on June 2, 2014 at 2:55 PM · Report this
I think Amazon could have got Hachette to capitulate sooner and damaged its relationship with consumers less if it had simply stopped selling Hachette books entirely. It's really hard to see Hachette holding out for more than a week under such circumstances, and as a consumer I'm much less bothered by my retailer saying "we don't carry that supplier's goods" than by them saying "yeah, we'll take your order, but we'll dawdle and delay and make your buying experience suck".
Posted by David Wright on June 2, 2014 at 3:47 PM · Report this
Gladwell bashes Bezos. Oh lordy, when will the vicious cycle of douche-on-douche violence end?
Posted by Mr. Happy Sunshine on June 2, 2014 at 3:57 PM · Report this
Then there's my experience last week when I received 2 books from Amazon, one wasn't the one I thought I'd ordered but I looked up my order and it was my mistake. Contacted them to let them know I wanted to return it, and they told me I didn't need to return it, they'd just refund the money. The next day I had a refund on my credit card. (I still don't want the book, but Friends of the Library will take anything.)
Anyway, I have had that and other rather good customer service experiences with them, so I don't find them entirely the devil's corporation.
Posted by crone on June 2, 2014 at 6:59 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 18
But Gladwell says we should admire Enron for being so good at cheating, and admire Lance Armstrong for being so good at cheating.

But NOW he says "I don’t think human beings reward those who hurt them"?!

Which is it, Gladwell?
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on June 2, 2014 at 9:09 PM · Report this

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