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Hachette Book Group continues negotiations with Amazon in much-talked-about sales dispute Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 04:04 PM America/New_York

Amazon-ColbertStickerSheetComedian and Hachette Book Group author Stephen Colbert stirred the publishing pot in June regarding an ongoing dispute between the prominent publisher and online giant Amazon. The bad blood centers around Amazon’s decision to delay the delivery of books, not list some e-books and not permit pre-sales.

Colbert asked viewers of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report to use stickers that read: “I didn’t buy it on Amazon.”

Hachette said negotiations with Amazon are continuing: “It is good to see Amazon acknowledge that its business decisions significantly affect authors’ lives,” a statement from the company said. “For reasons of their own, Amazon has limited its customers’ ability to buy more than 5,000 Hachette titles.

“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.

“We will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon—which has been a great partner for years—but under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing and distributing them at the same time that it recognizes Amazon’s importance as a retailer and innovator. Once we have reached such an agreement, we will be happy to discuss with Amazon its ideas about compensating authors for the damage its demand for improved terms may have done them and to pass along any payments it considers appropriate.”

Senior Vice President and Publisher Rolf Zettersten observed that Hachette Nashville’s “hottest-selling book” at the time was Instinct by T.D. Jakes, which Amazon has kept in stock.

Literary agent Chip MacGregor observed on his blog ( that the biggest topic of conversation at May’s Book Expo America in New York City was the Amazon-Hachette dispute. The fight is all about the bottom line, according to MacGregor.

“Amazon, a company that used to pride itself on being customer focused, is deliberately choosing to treat customers badly, in order to try and force better terms from Hachette,” he writes. “(In addition to wanting to sell books at a loss, they want more marketing dollars from Hachette, and of course are pushing for greater discounts. This fight is ALL about money.)”

The American Booksellers Association  (ABA) produced two banners for independent booksellers that read: “Thanks, Amazon, the indies will take it from here,” with tag line options of “Independent bookstores sell books from all publishers. Always,” or “Pre-order and buy Hachette titles today.” Booksellers also can download ABA stickers that read: “I bought it at an independent bookstore” and “I bought it at my local, independent bookstore.”

An Amazon statement from May 27 reads: “Suppliers get to decide the terms under which they are willing to sell to a retailer. It’s reciprocally the right of a retailer to determine whether the terms on offer are acceptable and to stock items accordingly.”

The online retailer added that the “business interruption affects a small percentage of Amazon’s demand-weighted units” and points to its third-party sellers for resolution.

”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%,” the Amazon statement said. “We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago. We hope Hachette takes us up on it.” —Johnson