THE AMAZON HACHETTE BATTLE ENDS
Publisher Hachette won an important victory recently in its battle with Amazon: the ability to set its own prices for e-books, which it sees as critical to its survival. But even as the publisher and retailer announced a negotiated peace after sparring since January, hardly anyone seemed in the mood for celebratory fireworks.
The conflict, which played out in increasingly contentious forums as the year progressed, left wounds too deep for that. Amazon has been cast as a bully in publications across the ideological spectrum, and a large group of authors is calling for it to be investigated on antitrust grounds. Its sales were hit by the dispute, analysts said. Hachette, too, revealed its vulnerability. Amazon’s supporters publicly questioned the need for Hachette, the fourth largest publisher, to exist in an era when authors can publish themselves digitally, an accusation Hachette was reluctant to respond to.
Even if Amazon got less in the deal than it originally wanted, it still controls nearly half the book trade, an unprecedented level for one retailer. The dispute showed it is not afraid to use its power to discourage sales.
James Patterson was a forceful voice against Amazon during the dispute. “Books and publishing need to be preserved if not protected in this country,” said Patterson, a best-selling Hachette novelist.
The multiyear agreement, which includes both e-books and print books, broadly follows a deal Amazon recently worked out with Simon & Schuster. A source with knowledge of that deal said it was negotiated relatively quickly and gave the publisher control over most of its pricing but offered incentives to sell at lower prices. Amazon feels publishers get too much of the revenue from e-books, another major area of contention. One industry insider commented, “If anyone thinks this is over, they are deluding themselves. Amazon covets market share the way Napoleon coveted territory.”
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