Jeff Bezos Swings Back, Says Book Publishers Charge Too Damn Much

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Amazon ( AMZN)   Chairman Jeff Bezos says books, or to be more exact, new hardcover books, cost too damn much.

"Books, in my view, are too expensive," Bezos said on Tuesday during an interview held at Business Insider's Ignition conference in New York. "You know, $30 for a book, is too expensive."

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Bezos complaint about the high price for a new hardcover book follows a very bitter fight between Amazon, the world's largest online retailer and bookseller, and Hachette, a unit of France's Lagardere SCA and the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher.

The dispute, which occupied much of 2014, centered on which company would control the right to set prices for e-books, and how much Amazon would take in for any sale made on its website. After refusing to post several Hachette titles among its book listings, Amazon and the publisher announced a multi-year agreement on Nov. 13.

Amazon Vice President of Kindle David Naggar said in a statement issued at the time, that the agreement included "specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices, which we believe will be a great win for readers and authors alike."

At the root of the feud was the cost of a book, a product for which Amazon has long insisted that publishers charge too high a price. Bezos, in an interview with Business Insider co-founder Henry Blodget, argued that books no longer compete with other books for the leisure time attention of consumers.

"Books compete against people reading blogs, news articles, playing video games, watching TV and seeing movies," he said. "If you narrow your field of view and only think of books competing with books, you make really bad decisions. If you want a healthy culture of long-form reading, you've got to make books more accessible, and part of that is making them less expensive."

With e-book sales generating "unparalleled profitability," Bezos said the book industry is in better shape than it ever has been. The Internet, Bezos said, has perfected the art of short-form reading, delivering three-paragraphs in a tidy package to smartphones. The Internet doesn't work as well for books, which is the main reason Amazon created the Kindle, he said.  

The Kindle is all about "reducing friction on long-form reading." Bezos vision for Kindle is "every book, ever in print, in any language, all available in 60 seconds."

It's possible that this tug-of-war between book publishers and Amazon isn't over.

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Written by Leon Lazaroff in New York

Contact by Email.

Follow @LeonLazaroff

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