Thursday, February 4, 2010

Amazon has not backed down; Times and Post are wrong

First The New York Times and now The Washington Post have reported that Amazon gave into Macmillan's demands, and it's been flashing all over the web that this is the case for four days now.

But check the source. The only reference is to this unsigned anonymous post buried deep on the site; that's the one and only bit of evidence to support the belief that Amazon has changed its tune.

The reality is that there's been NO public surrender by, NO change in their policy, and NO announcement by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and, as of right now, Macmillan books are still not for sale in either electronic or paper editions from

How much weight should we give to the anonymous blog post cited above? Here's a test. Go to the main page, and try to follow a chain of links to get to that supposedly big, important, game-changing public announcement. Go ahead, try. You'll never find it.

Amazon is based in Washington state. That unsigned blog post went up at 2:22 on a Sunday afternoon Pacific time, when no one in real authority was likely in the building. It's either a case of some clueless eager beaver deep in the bowels of the hierarchy speaking up when he had no authority to do so, or -- if you want to take a more sinister approach -- a brilliant bit of misdirection, knowing that the little posting would go viral (and then be picked up by lazy old-media reporters), and so any planned boycott or collective action by customers or authors against Amazon would dissipate, with everyone saying, "Whew, glad that's over!"

But it isn't. Nothing has changed in the standoff. The books are still off-sale, Amazon has reached no agreement with Macmillan, and authors are getting hurt.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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