Look for your future Malcolm Gladwell books to arrive from Amazon without the delay, now that the online bookseller and Hachette have settled their dispute over ebook pricing and distribution of Hachette’s books.
The battle between the e-commerce behemoth and the publishing conglomerate—who painted one another as profit monger and outdated dinosaur, respectively—ended amicably on Thursday. In a joint press release, Amazon and Hachette announced new ebook terms which will go into effect on 2015.
The almost jubilant tone of the press release is far removed from the ugly battle that went public when Amazon stopped sales of some Hachette titles and slowed delivery—sometimes by months—of others. As if that message wasn’t clear to the book publisher, Amazon also posted ads on Hachette book product pages suggesting, “similar items at a lower price.”
Hachette, whose authors include Gladwell, Donna Tartt, James Patterson and a children’s book author you may’ve heard of named JK Rowling, bristled against Amazon’s push to price all ebooks at $9.99. An onslaught of manifestos ensued.
A letter organized by Douglas Preston and signed by 900 other authors, including Stephen King, John Grisham and Malcolm Gladwell, called out Amazon. Titled “Authors United,” it accused Amazon of “for selective retaliation” against specific authors it refused to ship (like Gladwell and others) and “inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery.”
Amazon responded with a “Readers United” letter signed by the “Amazon Book Team,” in which it laid out its argument for low-priced ebooks and suggested that publishing houses are “colluding” to keep prices high. After all, “Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices,” the letter read. It’s a sly allusion to the Department of Justice suing Apple, Hachette and four other publishers of ebook price fixing, which all parties settled in 201.
Then it was Hachette’s turn.
“This dispute started because Amazon is seeking a lot more profit and even more market share, at the expense of authors, bricks and mortar bookstores, and ourselves,” Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch said in a letter following Amazon’s. He pointed out that 80% of its ebook inventory was priced at $9.99, and those priced higher would be discounted after their paperback analogs hit the shelf.
On Thursday, it was all manifestos under the bridge. Though specific details of the new agreement are not shared, it seems similar to a deal Amazon and Simon & Schuster recently struck. According to the statement:
Hachette will have responsibility for setting consumer prices of its ebooks, and will also benefit from better terms when it delivers lower prices for readers. Amazon and Hachette will immediately resume normal trading, and Hachette books will be prominently featured in promotions.
“This is great news for writers,” Hachette’s Pietsch said in the statement.
“We are pleased with this new agreement as it includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices, which we believe will be a great win for readers and authors alike,” concurred David Naggar, VP of Kindle.
As the New York Times pointed out on Thursday, some of Gladwell’s most popular titles available on Amazon still showed shipping delays of one to four weeks. Likely that’ll rectify soon, but in the mean time, many of these same books are available “new or used” from Amazon’s independent sellers for no more than $3 plus shipping. So why all the fuss?
Lead image by Jenn Calder