Amazon turns away customers in ebook pricing war
Amazon has admitted that it is buying less stock that usual from Hachette as part of an increasingly public disagreement with the publisher, and has told customers to shop elsewhere.
The dispute centres on how much each party earns from ebook sales, with Amazon pushing for a higher percentage.
Earlier this week, Amazon was accused of putting pressure on the publisher by removing the option to pre-order upcoming books – including JK Rowling’s latest – and telling would-be customers that it would take as long as a month to deliver some print copies, with some titles reportedly not showing up in the site’s search results.
Authors including James Patterson have spoken out, calling for regulators to step in.
If you do need one of the affected titles quickly, we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors
Amazon has now confirmed that it’s buying less print inventory of Hachette books than ordinary, and is no longer taking pre-orders on new titles.
“For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order, at which time we order the inventory from Hachette. Availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Hachette to fill the orders we place,” the company said in a statement on its website. “Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to the customer promptly.”
“These changes are related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon,” it noted.
The company acknowledged that the two sides have failed to reach “a mutually acceptable agreement” on pricing, but took a different tone to Hatchette’s authors. Indeed, Amazon praised the publisher, saying that it “operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives”.
No end in sight
Despite such professions of admiration, Amazon is “not optimistic” that the dispute will end soon, and advises customers who can’t buy a specific book to head to rivals. “If you do need one of the affected titles quickly, we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors,” the company said.
The company also hopes to appease authors by kicking in half of the money for an “author pool”, which Hachette can dole out to “mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties”. The deal will only work if the publisher offers to fund the other half, however. “We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago,” Amazon said. “We hope Hachette takes us up on it.”
The company criticised some of the coverage of the dispute, saying it “expressed a relatively narrow point of view”, and declaring that as a retailer it has a right to choose what it stocks and how it markets its products.
“When we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers,” it said. “Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term.”