Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has just received a blunt message. He was given “the finger” on prime-time TV by America’s new chat-show king Stephen Colbert, who is incensed that his books are not available to buy on Amazon. Mr Colbert is one of thousands of authors signed to the publisher Hachette, which has been embroiled in a stand-off with Amazon over pricing.
The decision by Hachette, one of the world’s biggest publishers, to fight Amazon is an important moment for the books industry. Few have dared to take on the mighty retailer, and they need encouragement
Amazon doesn’t operate like a normal business. It runs on wafer-thin margins, claiming to put the consumer first. The publishing industry despairs because, in the words of Hachette, books are not “like any consumer good”. But in the absence of a serious rival to Amazon, and a lack of intervention from regulators, Mr Bezos’s record suggests he will ignore every message except sheer financial power. Hachette should not be left to campaign alone.