Amazon, Communist

     China erased all references to the Tiananmen Square massacre from its Internet sites this week, on the 25th anniversary of that outrage.
     And is doing its best to erase all references to the Hachette Book Group – the third-largest publishing group in Europe – from its Internet site.
     How are those two smear campaigns different?
     I don’t think they are different at all, except that one is a state actor and the other one is a private company that has more financial resources than many modern states.
     They’re both trying to erase history.
     They’re both run by goons.
     Oh, and one of them owns The Washington Post.
     I’m an author and my books, so far, have been available on Amazon. I have another book coming out this fall. Maybe Amazon will let you buy it, too. I don’t know. What can I do about it if they don’t? Not a goddamn thing.
     Amazon picked on Hachette because it’s the smallest of the three major European publishers. That’s called picking off the herd. It’s also called forum shopping: It’s rather tricky to enforce U.S. antitrust laws in Europe.
     Amazon sold 41 percent of all the new hardback books in the United States last year.
     It sold 65 percent of the new books, counting ebooks and real books.
     If Amazon is not restraining trade by refusing to sell Hachette books, than I am an armadillo.
     I’ve never made much money from my books. A few thousand dollars. But I know a few things about the U.S. book trade.
     Do you know average the shelf life of a new book in U.S. bookstores? The length of time that the stores will stock it until they send it back to the publisher to be pulped?
     Two weeks.
     That’s right. Poor authors like me have about two weeks to sell our books in stores. Then we’re remaindered.
     Amazon is telling people who want to buy Hachette books that the books are not available – though they are. It is telling people that they will have to wait six weeks or more to get a Hachette book. Amazon, in other words, is doing its very best to kill every new book that Hachette publishes in the United States.
     This is Chinese Communist behavior. It is an attempt to erase history. It is vile. It is an outrage.
     Just as the Chinese government threatens to harm, and does harm, anyone who dares to write about the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Amazon is threatening to harm, and is harming, anyone who writes for Hachette books.
     I don’t see much difference between China and Amazon, except that Amazon isn’t killing authors yet. So far as we know.
     I have another problem with Amazon. Not long ago it sent me an email saying that the cost of my Amazon Prime membership would increase from, I believe it was, $78 to $99 a year.
     The thing is, I never signed up for Amazon Prime. Not to my knowledge.
     I called Amazon to complain about that. The nice lady on the other end of the line assured me that yes I did sign up for Amazon Prime.
     No I did not, I said. I asked to speak to her boss.
     She didn’t let me speak to her boss. She put me on hold and said Amazon would charge me $99 whether I liked it or not.
     Really? I said. Then you’ll be looking at a big fat class action lawsuit.
     She put me on hold again and then told me again that Amazon was charging me $99 for something I didn’t want and never ordered.
     Fine, I said. Can I have the name of your boss for that big fat class action lawsuit?
     She put me on hold a third time and came back and told me that Amazon would not charge me that $99 after all. And to have a nice day.
     What kind of a way to do business is that?

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