Published in The New York Times: June 16, 2008
PARIS — Amazon, the online retailing giant with a fast-rising share of the consumer book market, has adopted the literary equivalent of a nuclear option for rebellious publishers who balk at its demands.
In the latest in a series of disputes over the division of revenue from online sales, Amazon has disabled the “buy now with 1 click” icon on its British Web site for hundreds of books published by the British unit of Hachette Livre, from back-list Stephen King novels to, naturally, “The Hachette Guide to French Wine.”
The button allows registered users to purchase titles instantly, with free shipping. Customers can still buy the affected books, but they have to navigate to an open marketplace that links them to third-party sellers of new or used books. And they have to pay for shipping.
The struggle comes at a time that Amazon’s power as a bookseller is increasing, with sales growing online in an otherwise tepid global book market. Some publishers fear that with the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle electronic reader, the company will rise into a position to be able to demand more concessions.