Round Five: the fight between Hachette and Amazon goes public

hachette vs amazon image

On 9 August Amazon emailed a public letter to all of its authors stating its side in the ongoing dispute with Hachette.

Basically Amazon’s argument boiled down to:

  •  Large publishers had illegally colluded to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
  • Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
  • Hachette should stop using their authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.

In support of its argument Amazon went public with information on the offers it had made Hachette to take authors out of the middle, specifically:

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

 Amazon ended its letter with a request to authors to email Hachette’s CEO Michael Pietsch to complain, and provided his email address.

The full text of Amazon’s email is available here.

Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch responded to the Amazon missive with his own letter. Pietsch defended higher ebook prices and blamed Amazon for “seeking a lot more profit and even more market share, at the expense of authors, bricks and mortar bookstores, and ourselves.”

I’m still not sure whose side of the wall I’m plumping for, but I did think that Amazon’s offers to remove authors from the middle was pretty generous, even if it was only a cynical ploy to suggest to authors that in future they might be better self-publishing.

Past posts regarding the ongoing negotiations between Hachette and Amazon:

2 thoughts on “Round Five: the fight between Hachette and Amazon goes public

  1. This just seems to go on and on. I’ve read a pile of comments from all sides of the fence about the issues. There’s also high profile authors weighing in on both sides of the argument.

    Cheaper eBooks benefit readers, but in the end, anyone really should be able to set their own prices. (I believe this is called ‘free market’ enterprise!’) Having said that, if big publishers price their ebooks too high, then eventually they’ll price themselves out of the market – particularly if smaller publishers and self published authors maintain lower pricing along with high quality product.

    • I wasn’t aware that Hachette was setting its initial ebook price as ‘cheaper than hardback until I read Hachette’s letter’. I guess it sort of makes sense. Either wait 6 months till the price comes down or pay a premium. But I’m still uneasy about it …

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