September 30, 2014 Last Updated 8:05 am

PBS, NYT and others appear to coordinate attack on Amazon, as battle with Hachette continues

Amazon stays silent as several news outlets deliver authors and Hachette’s arguments in favor of intervention into the dispute by the U.S. Department of Justice

They will no doubt call it a mere coincidence, but several major news outlets appeared to coordinated their news reporting, running stories on the on going battle between the online retailer Amazon.com and the publisher Hachette.

The PBS NewsHour led things off last night with a segment with novelist Roxana Robinson, president of the Author’s Guild. Robinson disputed Amazon’s claim that cheaper books would lead to more sales in an interview with the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown.

Robinson-feature“Amazon has made a public claim saying that they have studies that show that if you drop the price of e-books, all e-books would sell more,” Robinson said. “They don’t show what those studies are. They don’t show any numbers. It’s not — it doesn’t make any sense. First of all, it presumes that there is an infinite demand for books, which isn’t true. If you made all the books on Amazon free, they still all wouldn’t find homes.”

“For the record,” Brown had earlier told viewers, “Amazon has not responded to several invitations to join us.”

This morning David Streitfeld of The New York Times reported on efforts to have the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics.

“It’s very clear to me, and to those I represent, that what Amazon is doing is very detrimental to the publishing industry and the interests of authors,” the literary agent Andrew Wylie said. “If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America.”

Like Brown, Streitfeld mentioned that Amazon declined to be interviewed for the story.

Both Salon ran a story on the story, linking to the NYT and focusing in on Amazon’s promotion of Paul Ryan’s book The Way Forward.

The Globe and Mail’s story centered on the impact of the eBook fight on Canadian authors. Emma Donoghue is quoted as saying that she, herself, has stopped buying books from the online retailing giant. “In a general way I am firmly on the side of my publishers and dislike Amazon; the one change I’ve made is that since the dispute began I’ve finally managed to wean myself off buying books from Amazon,” Donoghue said.

The appearance of so many stories, in so many news outlets, was hard to miss – and hard to call a coincidence. Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader ran excerpts of several of the stories, then ended his report with a little snark: “With this massed firepower, surely Amazon’s knees will buckle, Jeff Bezos’ will will break, and authors and publishers will march forward into a triumphant future!”


The appearance of the stories, all at the same time, is likely the result of the Amazon/Hachette story fading from view. From Amazon’s perspective, the longer the battle goes on, the longer authors and publishers are hurt by declining sales, the stronger their position becomes. Amazon.com is a diversified retailer, and books, while what the company is known for, only a small part of their overall sales. besides, not all books are caught in the battle.

In a war where one side is getting bad publicity, and the other is losing sales, the side getting hammered in the press will probably prevail. This is why friends of Hachette are calling on the DOJ to intervene. But that is unlikely, especially in an election year. If the DOJ lifts a finger at all, it won’t be until the end of the year.

  • Paul 3 years ago

    I think its less of a campaign by the newspapers and more a couple of PR outlets calling journalists and saying “hey, we think there’s a story here, and we’re giving you an exclusive for 12 hrs, then we’ll tell someone else”. The media doesn’t work in a coordinated fashion, the business is too competitive for that.

    • D.B. Hebbard 3 years ago

      Others agree with you that it is doubtful that the media companies did not coordinate the attack.

      But I’m not so sure. I think they acquiesced to covering this, knowing full well others would be writing or broadcasting basically the same story.

      In any case, the effect is the same.