Amazon takes on Miss Piggy

First it was writers like JK Rowling.

Now it’s Miss Piggy and Kermit.

They have become what is known as “leverage” in Amazon’s contract battle with content providers, such as publishers and movie studios.

As Miss Piggy would demur, with a bat of her lashes, “Moi?”

Amazon is in a contract dispute with Disney, according to the Wall Street Journal. This new battle comes in the midst of Amazon’s months-long conflict with the publisher Hachette that has stirred up a hornet’s nest of angry writers who don’t like being caught in the middle.

In its battle with Disney, the online retailer has halted the pre-order of some DVD and Blu-ray versions of some titles. They include “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Maleficent,” and “Muppets Most Wanted.” Instead, customers are invited to sign up to be notified when the digital versions of the movies are available.

Controlling the pipeline has periodically been an Amazon tactic in the past. When it comes to movies, the company did something similar in a contract disputes with Time Warner’s Warner Bros. studio, the Journal reports.

In a note posted on its own website, Amazon said the core of the problem is the publishing industry’s resistance to change, including to the idea that e-books should be cheaper than paper books.

It calls on readers to email  Michael Pietsch, Hachette’s CEO, (and cc Amazon) asking the firm to stop using its authors as human shields.

Why are Amazon’s contract negotiations in the news more?

One theory, as the New York Times describes it, is that the firm, always a tough negotiator, has been under more financial pressure as of late. Recently it said it could lose more than $800 million this quarter. The firm may be “trying to get an edge anywhere it possibly can.”

Or, maybe this time, Amazon fight with Hachette has swept up writers who know how to fight back. (Amazon notes in its message that it enjoys the support of some writers).

In a paid two-page ad in the New York Times on Sunday, more than 900 writers including Stephen King and John Grisham wrote a letter to readers criticizing Amazon.

The writers asked readers to email Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, to ask for the end of its pressure tactics, which has included delaying the availability of Hachette titles:

As writers — most of us not published by Hachette — we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.

Above: Kermit the Frog with Miss Piggy in a photo provided by Disney Enterprises.  (AP Photo/Disney, Scott Garfield). 

Michelle Quinn Michelle Quinn (160 Posts)

Michelle Quinn is a Business Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Prior to her current role, she was the Silicon Valley correspondent at Politico covering tech policy and politics. She has also covered the tech industry at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a blogger for the New York Times.