Involved in a publishing dispute, Amazon.com is discouraging its customers from purchasing popular titles from Hachette Book Group.
That's at least according to Hachette, one of the largest New York houses and operator of Grand Central Publishing, Orbit and Little, Brown as well as many other imprints.
The primary way Amazon is said to be thwarting sales is by telling customers some popular titles are out of stock even though Hachette claims shipments are proceeding as normal.
"We have been asked legitimate questions about why many of our books are at present marked out of stock with relatively long estimated shipping times on the Amazon website, in contrast to immediate availability on other websites and in stores," Hachette said in a statement released to the media late last week.
The statement added, "We are satisfying all Amazon's orders promptly. Amazon is holding minimal stock and restocking some of HBG's books slowly, causing 'available 2-4 weeks' messages,' for reasons of their own."
Generally, most popular books are available from Amazon within two days, reports said.
The New York Times, which broke the story, also indicated Amazon is no longer giving the friendly Amazon discount that can drive sales to many popular Hachette titles. Prices are at least $2.00 lower at Barnes & Noble and elsewhere. Amazon is also suggesting titles from other authors in the same genre that can be bought cheaper.
Publishing spats over terms aren't unusual. Barnes & Noble cut the number of Simon & Schuster titles it sold in an eight-month dispute last year over e-book discounting, in-store promotional costs and other issues, according to The Wall Street Journal. Amazon's disputes with Macmillan books in 2010 and with distributor Independent Publishers Group in 2012 also went public.
In most disputes, however, Amazon typically lowers titles from its recommendation algorithms rather than depriving customers of books. Many saw the latest dispute, also reportedly over e-book pricing, as a sign that Amazon may be looking for ways to beef up margins with pressure growing from Wall Street to show profits.
"This could seem like they're being spiteful and petty," Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst with Forrester, told The New York Times. "That's typically not Amazon's playbook."
Should retailers be more honest with consumers about what's behind out-of-stocks?