Amazon E-Book Price Dispute Spreads To Germany (AMZN)

Amazon’s dispute over the pricing of e-books that it purchases from publishers has spread from the United States to Germany. Amazon has been accused of using the same tactics against the Bonnier Group and their associated authors as it used against publishers in the United States, notably the publisher Hachette. Germany is currently Amazon’s largest market after the United States. Amazon has a distribution center in Brieselang, Germany and is planning on opening two logistics centers in Poland to help serve the European market.

Amazon has been accused of increasing the delivery times for books from publishers that are disputing the e-book prices Amazon is trying to get them to accept. The company has also been accused of making false statements to Amazon customers regarding whether certain books from those publishers were available and dropping those books and authors from Amazon’s recommended reading lists. The tactics have been likened to extortion and seem to be aimed at extracting deeper discounts from the publishers.

Joining the protest was more than 1,000 writers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as several hundred artists and readers. One of the writers protesting Amazon’s actions is leading German-language author Elfriede Jelinek, who won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004. Popular crime novelists Ingrid Noll and Nele Neuhaus have also pledged their support. Many German authors had not made public comments on the matter previously because they did not want to complicate the negotiations, but now some believe it is important to raise readers’ awareness about the issue.

An open letter to Amazon from the group accused the company of deliberately manipulating recommended reading lists and the availability of books as retaliation for joining the dispute over the pricing of e-books. In addition to being sent to Amazon’s headquarters, the open letter was also sent to leading publications in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. In response, Amazon claimed that the publishers’ terms were unfair and made it so it was more expensive for Amazon to sell a digital version of their books than to sell the print edition. Amazon is standing firm by its belief that e-books should be offered for less than printed books and is trying to use its leverage in the retail industry to encourage publishers to accept their terms.

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