Book Battles: A Strategic Communication Analysis of Amazon.com’s Dispute with Hachette Book Group and Authors United
Keywords:Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, Hachette, Authors United, stakeholder relationships, corporate reputation, corporate social responsibility, grassroots activism, activists
The evolving consumer mindset as it relates to corporate social responsibility— looking into what businesses stand for rather than simply the products or services they sell—was put to the test in 2014 as e-commerce giant Amazon.com chose to engage in an aggressive contract negotiation with supplier Hachette Book Group. Within months, repercussions from the dispute had infuriated a group of 900 influential book authors who formed the grassroots activist organization “Authors United.” The dispute turned public with a war of words that played out through traditional and digital media, threatening to damage Amazon’s shining reputation and calling into question how the retail giant manages and prioritizes its web of stakeholder relationships. This case study reviews and analyzes the nearly year-long conflict from a stakeholder theory and stakeholder prioritization perspective. This case offers important implications for strategic communication students and professionals, suggesting consumers may not be as moved by socially irresponsible corporate behavior as often believed.