Hard ball by Amazon or simply part of the normal warp and woof of business? Probably a bit of both.
The Independent Publishers Group says Amazon has decided not to renew an agreement to resell electronic titles offered by the book distributor's client publishers in an apparent dispute over wholesale discounts on books. About 5,000 Kindle titles will be affected, though the print editions of the books remain available for sale on Amazon.
The group's president, Mark Suchomel, said in an interview that Amazon "wanted better margins" suggesting this was part of a pressure campaign to extract more favorable terms from publishers and distributors. He declined to get any more specific about the terms of the negotiations.
"They wanted better margin and we were telling them what our terms were. So they took the titles off," according to Suchomel, who said the two sides had been talking for some time.
"It is what it is. We're certainly not talking to them today. I hoped it would be otherwise but am not expecting it to happen anytime soon.
The episode brought up memories of another public dispute over book pricing involving Amazon. In 2010, Amazon temporarily stopped selling MacMillan's titles, refusing to price titles any higher than the e-tailer's $9.99 standard. It was not known if MacMillan offered any concessions to Amazon to get the buy buttons restored.
IPG is the nation's second-largest independent book distributor.
Amazon did not respond to requests for comment whether it was pushing book distributors for bigger discounts, but Suchomel said other book distributors have been receiving the same message about margins.
"I'm not surprised they pulled when they did. But of course, I'm incredibly disappointed," he said. "We're certainly working very well with them on the print side and I would love to sell them the e-titles titles. If they want them they're certainly available."