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Summary:

Amazon spoke out on its contract dispute with book publisher Hachette, saying it’s unlikely the parties will reach an agreement any time soon. The retailer also said it’s offered to fund half of an “author pool” to mitigate the impact on Hachette authors’ lost royalties.

As Amazon and book publisher Hachette continue negotiations that have resulted in Amazon turning off pre-orders and delaying shipments on many Hachette titles, the retailer broke its silence Tuesday with a post (no comments allowed) on its Kindle forums. This comes just in time for BookExpo America, the country’s largest convention for the book industry, which starts Wednesday in New York.

“One of our important suppliers is Hachette, which is part of a $10 billion media conglomerate,” Amazon wrote, in apparent reference to accusations that the retailer is picking on Hachette. The company confirmed that it’s “buying less (print) inventory and ‘safety stock” on titles from the publisher…than we ordinarily do, and [is] no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future.”

It looks as if the negotiations are going to drag out for awhile:

“Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually-acceptable agreement on terms. Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives. Nevertheless, the two companies have so far failed to find a solution. Even more unfortunate, though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.”

As for Hachette authors, many of whom have complained publicly, Amazon said, “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%. We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago. We hope Hachette takes us up on it.” (The Macmillan reference is to the 2010 dispute over agency pricing, during which Amazon turned off the buy button on Macmillan titles before ultimately capitulating.)

In the post, Amazon drives home the point that Hachette is just another supplier — “This topic has generated a variety of coverage, presumably in part because the negotiation is with a book publisher instead of a supplier of a different type of product.” The company notes, “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.”

Amazon didn’t say explicitly how many items are affected, but noted that “If you order 1,000 items from Amazon, 989 will be unaffected by this interruption. 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.”

  1. Marina Pastore Wednesday, May 28, 2014

    Thanks for the info, Laura! The official post from Amazon actually sounded kind of reasonable at first, but then they go and post that link at the end as a “post that offers a wider perspective”. Unbelievable.

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