Short form, for those who haven’t heard: Macmillan (publishing conglomerate that includes, among other companies, Tor) allegedly told Amazon (you know who they are, I imagine) that they wanted to price their ebooks at $15, and Amazon, in refusing to cooperate, has stopped selling Macmillan’s books. Not their ebooks; all of their books. As in, right now you can buy the Wheel of Time used from third-party sellers, but not from Amazon.
Oh, and undoubtedly this has to to with the iPad thing — Macmillan is one of the corporations that struck a deal with Apple for the iBookstore.
Cory Doctorow has a good analysis of what that means, and I think it’s a good analysis even if you’re not usually on board with his copyright agenda (as I’m aware many people aren’t). Shorter Cory: Macmillan’s $15 thing is dumb, but what Amazon did is a hell of a lot dumber, and either way it’s like two bull elephants going tusk-to-tusk while the rest of us, the writers and readers, get trampled underfoot. This is the consequence of the conglomeration of publishing, and it really isn’t a good thing.
Lots of other people have commented. John Scalzi here and here, Jay Lake here and here; also Jim Hines, Cat Valente, Janni Lee Simner, others I’ll undoubtedly see when I open up my Google Reader, and more besides.
At the moment? I’m waiting for more information. Nothing’s certain at the moment, not even that the pulling of the books was done by Amazon rather than Macmillan (though it seems very likely). Lots of authors have pulled the Amazon links from their sites. I haven’t done that yet, mostly because a) there are a lot of them to pull and b) we don’t have the full story yet; I’d be pissed if I went to all that work only to learn something that paints Amazon in a better light. I’m not real optimistic about that, mind you, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to wait another day or two. Once I know for sure what’s up with this, then I’ll make my decision.
But I gotta tell you, Amazon’s done some kind of craptastic things in the past, and adding this one to the list does more than put a bad taste in my mouth. As Jay says, what they appear to have done isn’t precisely wrong — they’re within their rights to decide which products to stock — but the implications of it are deeply troubling. Amazon isn’t just a retailer; they dominate the audiobook market, and have been trying to lock down the ebook market, in ways that aren’t good for any of us. They’ve tried before to use that weight to strongarm publishers into doing things their way (insert industry neepery here, of a lower-profile sort), and if they succeed, we’re all going to lose.