Most of the posts about the throw down between Macmillan and Amazon have talked about the “agency model,” as opposed to the model that Amazon prefers for the Kindle. Teresa Nielsen Hayden explains how the model works:
At the heart of the model is the proposition that ebooks aren’t essentially different from hardcopy books. Ebooks are just another repro technology. Furthermore, online ebook sellers like Amazon aren’t publishers; they’re distributors or booksellers.*
The difference between the agency model and Amazon’s plan for world domination is that Amazon wants to license the ebooks in its Kindle program, control their content, and set their prices. That is: it wants to be the publisher, not a distributor or seller. This might be doable if Amazon were out there negotiating to buy rights at market prices. It isn’t. Amazon expects to have the rights just handed over, as though it were doing the conventional publishers a favor.