The Wall Street Journal points out that Amazon customers can no longer put in pre-orders for disc versions of upcoming Disney titles like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Maleficent directly from Amazon, though the site continues to sell pre-orders for digital downloads and rentals of new Disney titles.
Neither company is commenting on the pulled pre-orders, but since competitors like Walmart are still taking pre-orders for Disney titles and the release dates of these discs has not been delayed, this is not a manufacturing or inventory issue, but points directly to a pricing standoff between Amazon and the House of Mickey, which not only controls Disney-branded titles but also ABC, ESPN, and others.
Amazon has always been aggressive in the wholesale prices it demands from book publishers and movie studios, especially as book- and record-store mega-chains have faltered, leaving content publishers with fewer major retail outlets on which to unload massive amounts of books and discs.
Its first headline-making effort at strong-arming a publisher took place in early 2010, when it first stopped selling and then jacked up the price on books from publisher Macmillan.
Later that same year, it got into a similar fight with Penguin over Amazon’s insistence on selling ebooks at $9.99.
Apple took advantage of publishers’ hatred for Amazon, convincing the largest among them to conspire to all switch to a new pricing model that allowed the publisher to determine the retail price rather than Amazon.
Unfortunately, it also led to higher and sometimes bizarre pricing for ebooks. It also resulted in a lawsuit by the federal government, alleging collusion and anticompetitive behavior by Apple and the country’s biggest publishers, including Hachette, Macmillan, and Penguin.
All the publishers settled, providing some refunds to customers and returning to the old pricing model while maintaining they did nothing illegal. Apple insisted on a trial. In the end, the court determined that Apple had indeed conspired with the publishers. The electronics company has been fighting that decision.