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Amazon plays hardball with publishers over e-book pricing

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The Amazon rainforest is a pretty inhospitable place, where the law of survival of the fittest is taken to a harsh extreme. Amazon.com seems to have taken a cue from its namesake with its latest tactics with publishers to remain king of the e-book jungle, or at least ensure that no Apples grow there.

According to the New York Times, the online retail powerhouse has threatened to stop selling books from certain publishers if they don’t agree to its pricing terms for e-books. (Independent publishers in particular seem to be feeling the heat.) This news comes just before the launch of Amazon’s biggest potential competitor, Apple’s iBookstore for its iPad tablet device. Most of America’s largest publishers, excluding only Random House, will be selling books through iBookstore, under terms that allow them to set their own prices, a concession Amazon has been loath to make. Earlier this year, Amazon and Macmillan got into a big, bad brawl (or at least as bad as fights in the publishing world can get), when the retailer removed the “buy” button from the publishing house’s books in an attempt to pressure the publisher into accepting fixed Kindle-edition pricing. Amazon eventually blinked, but clearly the company hasn’t abandoned this line of attack.

The marketplace is getting pretty heated, and I imagine that as the first true pretender to Amazon’s electronic book throne finally enters the ring, it’ll only get worse. I can’t help but think that Amazon’s strong-arm strategy feels a little like the desperate actions of the king who can hear the restless villagers at his doorstep and knows that his time ruling alone at the top, while fun and super-profitable, will soon come to an end. What do you think? Do you agree with Amazon that $12.99-$14.99 is “needlessly high” a price to pay for an e-book, or is the online giant just throwing its weight around?