Hachette CEO: “More than 80% of the ebooks we publish are priced at $9.99 or lower”

Gigaom illustration by Biz Carson, adapted from Shutterstock.

It’s been a weekend of manifestoes as Amazon, book publisher Hachette and authors try to draw others onto their respective sides — and encourage readers to email Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch. Now Pietsch is responding to those writing to him, and Hachette made that response public on Sunday night.

letter in support of Hachette ran as a two-full-page advertisement in the Sunday edition of the New York Times, signed by more than 900 authors. Amazon, meanwhile, sent a letter of its own to KDP authors and posted it online in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

In his letter (posted in full below), Pietsch writes that “we don’t usually comment publicly while negotiating, but I’ve received a lot of requests for Hachette’s response to the issues raised by Amazon, and wanted to reply with a few facts.” He goes on to say that Hachette sets its own ebook prices “far below corresponding print books,” that “more than 80% of the ebooks we publish are priced at $9.99 or lower” and that “those few priced higher” will decrease in price once the paperback edition of a book is published.

“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,” Pietsch argues.

A Hachette spokeswoman said Sunday that everyone who writes to Pietsch will receive a copy of this email “over the next couple days.” I’ve asked the company how many emails it’s received so far, and will update this post if I hear back.

All of the statements that Amazon has released thus far have been unattributed, so it’ll be interesting to see if we get a statement from Jeff Bezos himself any time soon.

Pietsch’s full letter:

Thank you for writing to me in response to Amazon’s email. I appreciate that you care enough about books to take the time to write. We usually don’t comment publicly while negotiating,but I’ve received a lot of requests for Hachette’s response to the issues raised by Amazon, and want to reply with a few facts.

  • Hachette sets prices for our books entirely on our own, not in collusion with anyone.
  • We set our ebook prices far below corresponding print book prices, reflecting savings in manufacturing and shipping.
  • More than 80% of the ebooks we publish are priced at $9.99 or lower.
  • Those few priced higher—most at $11.99 and $12.99—are less than half the price of their print versions.
  • Those higher priced ebooks will have lower prices soon, when the paperback version is published.
  • The invention of mass-market paperbacks was great for all because it was not intended to replace hardbacks but to create a new format available later, at a lower price.

As a publisher, we work to bring a variety of great books to readers, in a variety of formats and prices. We know by experience that there is not one appropriate price for all ebooks, and that all ebooks do not belong in the same $9.99 box. Unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books, often for years, before we see any revenue. We invest in advances against royalties, editing, design, production, marketing, warehousing, shipping, piracy protection, and more. We recoup these costs from sales of all the versions of the book that we publish — hardcover, paperback, large print, audio, and ebook. While ebooks do not have the $2-$3 costs of manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping that print books have, their selling price carries share of all our investments in the book.

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. Both Hachette and Amazon are big businesses and neither should claim a monopoly on enlightenment, but we do believe in a book industry where talent is respected and choice continues to be offered to the reading public.

Once again, we call on Amazon to withdraw the sanctions against Hachette’s authors that they have unilaterally imposed, and restore their books to normal levels of availability. We are negotiating in good faith. These punitive actions are not necessary, nor what we would expect from a trusted business partner.

Thank you again and best wishes,

Michael Pietsch

 

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