Highly successful business people do not reach the corner office by being nice guys. If you've ever had to deal with one of them, you know they are assholes. Jerks. Demanding, petulant, mean, but they get things done and that's why they make the big money.
Highly successful assholes are waging war in the publishing industry and the masks have fallen in the heat of battle.
Amazon has been going at Hachette Book Group with all the ferocity of a determined asshole. Considering Amazon's financial picture, it's not such a surprise. The company sells a lot of stuff, but it hasn't been all that profitable. And Jeff Bezos has a high salary to maintain, so the money has to come from somewhere. How better to pad the bottom line than to squeeze a few more drops of money out of the vendors? Like Hachette Book Group.
The public, however, doesn't see books in the same light as they view luggage tags. Books have been banned for propagating dangerous thought. Books have been burned for the words they contain. You never hear of anyone calling on a luggage tag ban.
Amazon's fight against Hachette has resulted in a war of words that plays out in the op-ed pages of prestigious and well-read newspapers, which made the once private machinations a very public affair. The public, as it turns out, is leaning towards support for Hachette while Amazon gets the sharp end of the criticism stick. When Stephen Colbert uses his mighty platform of a popular television program to launch a boycott of your store, that's when you know you've gotten yourself into trouble.
Assholes lash out when they're losing because they don't like to lose, and Amazon has not failed to do something childish. Something that makes the corporation look petty, mean, and, well, like a bunch of assholes.
We'll go back to the way things were with Hachette, says the book selling behemoth, if Hachette's authors get all the royalties on the e-books. Hey, Hachette authors, isn't that a nice deal we're handing you? We'll buy your loyalty so you stop criticizing us in the press after we blocked pre-sales of your new books and made it harder to order anything from Hachette which punished you, okay, we get it now, sorry, here's a nice pile of money to make it all up to you.
To which Hachette's authors scratched their heads and mumbled, "What a bunch of assholes." Amazon is acting like an abusive husband trying to win back a battered wife.
Hachette pays their authors a royalty, unlike Amazon through its Kindle Direct Publishing program. To then suggest that Hachette give the authors even more, so that Hachette gets no profit at all from e-book sales, is more than ludicrous. It's the sound of a spoiled child acting out when it isn't getting its way and frustrated that the whole plan is going rapidly downhill.
The battle of the assholes will rage on because successful business people don't take no for an answer. They will do what they have to do to win, try one tactic and then regroup to try another if the first one fails.
A response from Amazon is to be expected shortly, as soon as the corner offices figure out how best to recover from a failed sortie.
Maybe someone will recall that old adage about not picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. All those authors not making sales, they're not happy, and they sure have a lot of words and places to spew them.