According to a blogger at the New York Times:
I’ve talked to a person in the industry with knowledge of the dispute who says the disappearance is the result of a disagreement between Amazon.com and book publishers that has been brewing for the last year. Macmillan, like other publishers, has asked Amazon to raise the price of electronic books from $9.99 to around $15. Amazon is expressing its strong disagreement by temporarily removing Macmillan books, said this person, who did not want to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Neither Amazon nor Macmillan has weighed in on this yet, as far as I can find. But we’re pretty sure Amazon pulled the books. Unless Macmillan pulled them. But it was probably Amazon. We think. At least according to that single unnamed source in the NY Times blog….
The timing does seem highly suspicious. It happened on a Friday, when companies would be slow to react, and right after the Apple iPad news (which also impacts the e-book wars). And regardless of what happened, this sucks for a lot of writers, including many of my friends at Tor.
But despite all of the angry speculation, I don’t know what happened. Once I have a little more information, I’ll happily join in the condemnations. If Amazon pulled the books, then shame on them. If Macmillan did it, then … well, WTF, Macmillan? If it was a database glitch[1. Unlikely, I admit, but I work with major database applications in my day job, and I’ve seen some weird glitches.], a lot will depend on how fast Amazon fixes it and how quickly they apologize.
For now, I’m just going to say this looks bad, and I expect to see more info very soon.
ETA: That was quicker than I expected. From the CEO of Macmillan:
“This past Thursday I met with Amazon in Seattle. I gave them our proposal for new terms of sale for e books under the agency model which will become effective in early March. In addition, I told them they could stay with their old terms of sale, but that this would involve extensive and deep windowing of titles. By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon.”