In the Amazon–Lego Movie Standoff, Is Jeff Bezos the Real Lord Business?

A blog about business and economics.
June 11 2014 1:48 PM

Amazon Takes Aim at The Lego Movie in Latest Supplier Dispute

L'ego my Lego!

Screenshot from YouTube

The arch villain of The Lego Movie is Lord Business, a controlling tyrant played by Will Ferrell who loathes creativity and imagination. Lord Business demands that a certain structure be upheld in the Lego world and uses his considerable powers to ensure that his vision is not disturbed. Original thought and a free flow of ideas are two casualties of his influence.

Alison Griswold Alison Griswold

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

Is Jeff Bezos the real Lord Business? It seems possible, now that The Lego Movie and other Warner Bros. productions have become the latest target of Amazon's highly visible standoffs with suppliers. The Lego Movie, which is set to be released on DVD on June 17, is no longer available for advance order on Amazon. Neither are the Warner Bros. features 300: Rise of an Empire, Transcendence, or Winter's Tale. Customers can instead sign up to be notified when the item becomes available.


While Amazon has not commented on any dispute with Warner Home Video, the disappearance of pre-orders on some of its biggest film titles suggests that Amazon is trying to leverage its retailing power over yet another of its suppliers. Amazon is using similar tactics against Hachette, the major book publisher, and the German division of the Bonnier Media Group. Hachette-published titles by J.K. Rowling and Malcolm Gladwell have been either rendered unavailable entirely or hit by lengthy shipping delays.

Amazon's willingness to sacrifice customer satisfaction and its own reputation over these negotiations is notable, particularly for a company that has built its name on putting users first. But as David Steitfeld points out in the New York Times, perhaps more notable is the increasing willingness by suppliers to hold firm against Amazon's demands. "If other suppliers adopt the same attitude, that might have significant implications for Amazon's pell-mell growth," he writes.

Another point to remember is one made well in the Atlantic a few weeks ago: The Amazon-Hachette conflict is not only about the future of publishing, but of ideas. Amazon controls the lion's share of book sales in the U.S., not to mention a huge percentage of e-book sales. And keep in mind that another Hachette title to briefly vanish from Amazon's virtual shelves was The Everything Store, a book that Bezos' wife gave a scathing one-star review

When Amazon gains too much power over the publishing industry, it also gets a dangerous level of control over which books—and the ideas they contain—are distributed to the public. It could promote books that are the most profitable to Amazon, or it could bury ones that subvert its own agenda. The Lego Movie (spoiler alert!) reaches a happy resolution: Lord Business has a change of heart and abandons his restrictive policies. But the end of Amazon's supplier tale has yet to be written.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.