Hachette responds to Amazon’s statement, will discuss compensating authors when terms are reached

Last night we got a statement from Amazon in regard to its current squabble with Hachette over contract terms; today we get a (somewhat snarky) statement from Hachette. Digital Book World has posted Hachette’s statement, which I’ll reproduce in full here:

It is good to see Amazon acknowledge that its business decisions significantly affect authors’ lives. For reasons of their own, Amazon has limited its customers’ ability to buy more than 5,000 Hachette titles.

Authors, with whom we at Hachette have been partners for nearly two centuries, engage in a complex and difficult mission to communicate with readers. In addition to royalties, they are concerned with audience, career, culture, education, art, entertainment, and connection. By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.

We will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon—which has been a great partner for years—but under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them, at the same time that it recognizes Amazon’s importance as a retailer and innovator. Once we have reached such an agreement, we will be happy to discuss with Amazon its ideas about compensating authors for the damage its demand for improved terms may have done them, and to pass along any payments it considers appropriate.

In the meantime, we are extremely grateful for the spontaneous outpouring of support we have received both privately and publicly from authors and agents. We will continue to communicate with them promptly as this situation develops.

It’s pretty much a mirror image of Amazon’s own statement, sniping at Amazon’s negotiation tactics while nonetheless calling Amazon a “great partner for years.” Though it’s interesting that Hachette says that Amazon is the one who was demanding better terms in the negotiation. Better terms than what? About what?

As one commenter on The Passive Voice points out, it’s pretty rich of Hachette to accuse Amazon of “limiting its customers’ ability to buy” those Hachette titles when it’s essentially putting them on the same terms as it does indie-published e-books: no pre-orders, and price set by the publisher.

And Hachette tries to make Amazon out to be the bad guy, at the same time as it declines any talk about a fund for compensating authors until such time as terms in their negotiation can be reached.

So, yeah. Neither statement is going to change anybody’s mind, especially given how heated the rhetoric has been and how little of actual substance is known. As to who is going to come out on top, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion Amazon is willing to take its position all the way to the bitter end of regretfully dropping Hachette altogether at the end of the contract after they were unable to reach an agreement. How far is Hachette willing to go?

3 Comments on Hachette responds to Amazon’s statement, will discuss compensating authors when terms are reached

  1. How far is Hachette willing to go? Well their name doesn’t look like hatchet for nothing… This is an ugly dispute, and the majority of the real people who could have a voice here, the consumers, won’t have a clue what it’s about. Won’t understand that the book they want isn’t available because Hachette doesn’t feel like they’re getting enough money, or Amazon feels like Hachette wants too much money. The average reader will go to Amazon, look for the book they’ve heard about, not see it, and get it elsewhere, or get something else. Neither Amazon nor Hachette wins in this one.

  2. I find it interesting that Hachette calls out 5,000 title that they have an unquestionable monopoly on, yet it’s Amazon that is accused of abusing their “monopoly”. If I wanted to I could buy all 5,000 of those titles from someone other then Amazon yet Amazon can’t get them from anyone other then Hachette.

    One thing I’ve learned in life is that there’s two sides to every disagreement. The PR campaign to paint this as all Amazon’s fault treats me like I’m a fool and from my perspective it’s more damaging to the “news outlets” then to Amazon. The lack of journalist integrity is the real story in all this and unfortunately it’s not news. (Note: I’m obviously not criticizing Teleread. It’s a general comment on the media coverage and PR campaign.)

  3. Snarky? I think not. And they’re right about that “spontaneous outpouring of support.” I’ve been watching Amazon for some fifteen years and this is the first time I’ve seen a groundswell of interest in supporting someone being bullied by it, and for a giant publisher no less! That is amazing.

    Note too a theme that Hachette keeps repeating in its public statements. It’s something that shows that Amazon is less author-friendly than it claims. Amazon knows who an author’s readers are, but doesn’t give that author a direct way to communicate to those readers. That’s Amazon’s sad obsession with control. “Your books are now ours” might be their motto as a publisher. They want to dictate almost every aspect of what an author is allowed to do.


    Personally, if I were an author who’d published a series of books on a common theme, I’d create a supplemental volume that’d be free and come with only one catch. Readers would need to go to an author’s website and have the option of subscribing to email announcements from that author. That’d give an author critically important direct contact with his readers. He could announce new books. He could even describe Amazon’s abuse of his titles, if such a thing happens.

    For fiction writers, that free book could either be a short tale that’s not quite of book length or perhaps the character sketches, chronology and other notes an author has created to plan his writing. Many major movie DVDs today come with a ‘how we made the film’ documentary. Books could include a ‘how I wrote this book’ reference, include answers to reader questions such as “Why was Sallie so made at Susie’s birthday party.”


    One further comment. There’s no dastardly “PR campaign to paint this as all Amazon’s fault.” There is PR from both sides in this dispute. But it’s quite true that this lack of availability is all Amazon’s fault. There was never any doubt about that. If Hachette had its way, there’d be no change in the availability of its titles. Negotiating a new contract can easily take place without all the hassles that Amazon is placing on its customers. Amazon really is a bully.

    What’s difficult for some is that their near worship of Amazon is getting challenged by recent events. I’ve never idealized Amazon, so I’m not surprised. I’ve also had enough personal dealings with major publishers (Pearson), so I have no illusions about them either. But I understand the dynamics of book distribution well enough to know that, in this particularly case, Hachette is the good guy and Amazon the bully.

    Over the years, there have been illustration after illustration of Amazon’s bad behavior. My first contact with Amazon didn’t come with a book purchase. It came in Seattle just after Amazon went public, selling its stock. A woman I met was hosting a garage sale before moving to California. She explained to me that, working for the early Amazon, she’d endured long hours and poor pay, in the hope of reaping an award when Amazon went public. Instead, she and hundreds of others were summarily laid off just so they wouldn’t get a penny of that money.

    Jeff Bezos, I concluded at that time, was a selfish, arrogant, greedy SOB with a heart of stone. Nothing I’ve seen or heard since then has altered that opinion. And living in Seattle until recently gave me an insider perspective that others don’t get living elsewhere.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.

wordpress analytics