It's been well over a month since the feud between Amazon and Hachette became public knowledge after Amazon started raising prices and delaying shipping on Hachette books. But in all that time, we've gotten few official details from either party. Now, however, Amazon has broken their silence by actually allowing one of their senior executives to speak on the record. Though not offering too many specifics, Russ Grandinetti, the senior vice president of Kindle content, gave an interview last week in the Wall Street Journal in which he defended Amazon in the dispute.
"This discussion is all about e-book pricing," Grandinetti explains in one of the first official comments about the negotiations. "The terms under which we trade will determine how good the prices are that we can offer consumers." He also defends Amazon's tactics, which have been widely denounced by people in the industry, by explaining again that Amazon has the consumers best interest at heart. Even though delaying shipping, removing pre-order buttons, and eliminating discounts on hundreds of books hasn't been a popular move, Grandinetti says that it's all "in the long-term interest of our customers."
Even more interesting than what Grandinetti says, however, is that he said it at all. Amazon is famously tight-lipped about its inner workings, rarely speaking on the record about anything. There was that one time CEO Jeff Bezos gave a 60 Minutes interview in which he famously announced the company was looking into drone delivery, but such glimpses into the company are rare. So even though Grandinetti didn't say anything too surprising in the interview, the fact that Amazon felt that they needed someone to speak to the press at all is significant.
As Dino Grandoni points out at Huffington Post, we can likely assume from this two things: "First, Amazon probably wouldn't publicly antagonize Hachette if the two were close to a deal. And second, Amazon's blathering to reporters means the company fears losing a more important fight: The one for the hearts and minds of consumers."
And it's that second part that probably has the retail giant most worried. After all, the people who are most hurt by this are the customers, and the longer this fight drags on, the more damage is done to the company reputation, especially since so many authors have been speaking out publicly against the retail giant, from James Patterson to Stephen Colbert. And from what sources inside Hachette have said, it seems like Amazon's demands are actually kind of unreasonable, which doesn't make them look good either.
Plus there's the simple fact that if customers keep seeing three to five week delivery times on the website, it won't be long before they start habitually checking other site like Powell's or Barnes and Noble instead — or just hitting up a local indie bookstore; this whole thing has actually been a boon for some indies.
In the midst of all this, it's not necessarily surprising that Amazon's stock price is down, though who knows if its a direct result of the feud. But it seems Amazon has finally wised up to the fact that they need some damage control. Now, whether or not it'll work is a whole different story.