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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Amazon V Hatchette - the state of play

Who are Hatchette?

Hatchette publish over 1,000 books a year and are actually made up of several imprints including Orbit, Little Brown and Hyperion. They publish many big name writers like James Patterson, Ian Rankin, Jeffrey Deaver and J K Rowling.

Who are Amazon?

Amazon are the world's biggest book sellers but they also sell toothpaste and everything else. They have also done many positive things for the publishing world by effectively creating a new publishing model with their KDP Select system which allows writers to take more control of their work.

What is the dispute about?

Neither side are disclosing the details, but it is believed to be over eBook pricing. There is a larger issue here and critics of Amazon claim that the company is trying to destroy the traditional publishing industry, while supporters of Amazon believe Amazon are acting in the best interests of writers and customers.

What are the dirty tricks Amazon are supposed to be using?

Amazon have removed the pre-order button from Hatchette titles. Also Hatchette titles that were on next day delivery now take 5-6 weeks to ship. The result of this is that Hatchette will sell fewer books.

What do Amazon say about this?

They have told customers to go elsewhere for Hachette titles. Amazon have also said that Hatchette are one of 70,000 suppliers they work with and have so far been unable to reach aggreement on the pricing of titles.

Are authors being affected?

Yes, James Patterson recently claimed that Amazon are trying to control shopping in this country (America). They are creating a monopoly. While Malcolm Gladwell called the situation, heartbreaking.

"One of our important suppliers is Hachette, which is part of a $10bn [£6bn] media conglomerate. Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually acceptable agreement on terms". Amazon

"We have been asked legitimate questions about why many of our books are at present marked out of stock with relatively long estimated shipping times on the Amazon website, in contrast to immediate availability on other websites and in stores. We are satisfying all Amazon’s orders promptly, and notifying them constantly of forthcoming publicity events and of out-of-stock situations on their website.” Hatchette

 "Amazon wants to control book buying, book selling and even book publishing,"  James Patterson

It's a sad state of affairs indeed, and although I am a big fan of Amazon I do feel that the company are being heavy handed here. The online super company are now so big that they may be untouchable and even although Hatchette are not small potatoes there is something of a David and Goliath element to this battle. The Author's Guild have accused Amazon of bullying but Amazon have responded by saying that critics of their actions are small minded. The row is mostly affecting US customers but it  has echoes of Hachette UK’s battle with Amazon in 2008, which resulted in Amazon removing the buy-button from a number of its titles. This time around Amazon appears to be telling its customers that there is limited availability of some Hachette USA titles. And In the UK some publishers have complained about a toughening up of Amazon’s contracts over the past six months, but so far there has been no open disagreement.

Let's hope the problem resolves itself soon.

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