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Amazon vs Hachette: Will There Be a Winner?

by on August 12, 2014

Negotiations between Amazon and Hachette continue, with no set agreement in the works. Many are calling Amazon a bully for forcing publishers to agree to contracts on Amazon’s terms. However, as one of the major book and e-book retailers in the world, Amazon holds a lot of clout and ultimately may end up pushing publishers to agree with their guidelines.

Anyone interested in publishing news is no doubt intrigued with the latest Amazon-Hachette debacle. For those of you who are not privy to what has been going on, I’ll catch you up to speed. Basically, Amazon and Hachette are disputing e-book pricing. Hachette, publisher of authors like James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and J.K Rowling, is reluctant to agree to Amazon’s prices and royalty agreements for e-books. As a result, books published by Hachette are now unavailable for pre-order on Amazon, are significantly reduced in stock, and/or take much longer to ship than they ordinarily would. For a breakdown of the scenario, I highly recommend this article.

As the debate continues, the New York Public Library hosted a panel on July 1st titled “Amazon: Business As Usual?” Among the panelists were James Patterson, attorney Bob Kohn, and David Vandagriff, the unofficial Amazon representative since Amazon did not send an official person to the debate.

The center of the debate is Amazon’s relationship to its publishers, in this instance Hachette. However, there are many questions and topics under this umbrella. As explained in the debate by attorney Bob Kohn, Amazon’s main objective is that “consumers are always better off with lower prices.” In another spin, David Vandagriff explained that Amazon pays “self-published authors 70% of profits on their e-book titles, compared to 25% from the major publishers.” Amazon’s almost Wal-Mart-esque stance for low prices will no doubt  affect writers, publishing companies, even  chains like Barnes & Noble, and traditional brick and mortar businesses. If the public demands and continues to anticipate low prices for the latest books and e-books, then Amazon is king.

As of this writing, no official decisions have been made. But one thing is clear: the publishing and e-book marketing landscape is completely changing forever. In this digital and globalized age, major corporations like Amazon reach broader audiences and can provide low-cost books with instant delivery. Additionally, self-published authors have more options to earn profits by partnering with Amazon. However, if Amazon does monopolize the publishing world, major changes will occur not only in the world of publishing, but also in official contracts with authors and traditional bookstores. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing is also still up for debate.

As public librarians, we no doubt understand how unsteady relationships with publishers and vendors can be regarding e-books. Clearly, these difficult scenarios are not limited to library land. In considering how Amazon will change the face of the publishing world, particularly with e-books, I wonder how this will affect e-book distribution to public libraries. What are your thoughts? Share them with me in the comments section.

For more details about the panel discussion, check at “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Amazon?” by Boris Kachka.

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