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Amazon escalates battle against publishers

Amazon, under fire in much of the literary community for energetically discouraging customers from buying books from the publisher Hachette, has abruptly escalated the battle.

The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J.K. Rowling’s new novel. The paperback edition of Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” — a book that Amazon disliked so much that it denounced it — is suddenly listed as “unavailable.”

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In some cases, even the pages promoting the books have disappeared. Anne Rivers Siddons’ new novel, “The Girls of August,” coming in July, no longer has a page for the physical book or even the Kindle edition. Only the audio edition is still being sold (for over $60).

Amazon is also flexing its muscles in Germany, delaying deliveries of books issued by Bonnier, a major publisher.

“It appears that Amazon is doing exactly that on the German market which it has been doing on the US market: using its dominant position in the market to blackmail the publishers,” said Alexander Skipis, president of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

The group said its antitrust specialists were examining whether Amazon’s tactics violate the law. “Of course it is very comfortable for customers to be able to order over the Internet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Skipis said. “But with such an online structure as pursued by Amazon, a book market is being destroyed that has been nurtured over decades and centuries.”

Amazon, which is under immense pressure from Wall Street to improve its profit margins, is trying to get better terms on e-books out of Hachette, the smallest of the top five New York publishers, and Bonnier.

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