It seems as though every year there is a dispute between a large retailer and publishers—last year it was B&N versus Simon & Schuster, this year it’s Amazon versus Hachette. As one of the Big 5 publishers, Hachette publishes blockbuster authors like James Patterson, David Sedaris, Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling’s pen name), Michael Connelly, Malcolm Gladwell, Emma Donoghue, David Baldacci, and many others. Though full details have not been disclosed, it is widely believed that the dispute between Amazon and Hachette primarily has to do with renegotiating sales terms—and Hachette is putting their foot down. In a post on the subject on May 27th, Amazon confirmed they are “buying less (print) inventory and safety stock … and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future.” The post goes on to encourage customers to purchase affected Hachette titles from one of their third party sellers or from one of their competitors.
My feeling is that disputes like this can only bring positive things to light for the publishing industry. At best, this will reinforce the value of books—proving literacy and literature are worth much more than a slashed-through price with a lofty discount. My role at Findaway World enables me to work with both publishers and distributors and I believe I have a good grasp on the objectives from each entity. Although Amazon claims to be pushing Hachette for better terms in the interest of consumers, I question if they are ultimately distancing themselves from their customers. As both a lifelong book lover and a publishing professional, I hope that readers will be more dedicated to an author than to low prices. Big name authors such as John Green (not a Hachette author), James Patterson, and Malcom Gladwell have all been clear about their standpoint on the dispute and publishing overall—and it’s, not surprisingly, in support of Hachette, literacy, and the publishing industry.
This sums it up pretty well:
In an attempt to keep authors on its side, Amazon says “We’ve offered to Hachette to fund 50% of an author pool—to be allocated by Hachette—to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties, if Hachette funds the other 50%. We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago. We hope Hachette takes us up on it.”
Hachette, responding, said: “Authors, with whom we at Hachette have been partners for nearly two centuries, engage in a complex and difficult mission to communicate with readers. In addition to royalties, they are concerned with audience, career, culture, education, art, entertainment, and connection. By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.”