Amazon has finally broken its silence over the dispute with Hachette, saying that while the two sides are working hard, Amazon is “not optimistic [the issue] will be resolved soon.” For its part, Hachette said it is holding its position. In a statement, the publisher said it will "spare no effort" to continue doing business with Amazon, "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."
Hachette's response was to a blog post on Amazon's Kindle forum on Tuesday, that has drawn a significant amount of attention. In the post, Amazon acknowledges that it is buying less print inventory and "safety stock" on titles from Hachette than normal and that it is no longer taking pre-orders. “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. Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to the customer promptly. These changes are related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon,” the post states.
Amazon notes that it does business “with more than 70,000 suppliers, including thousands of publishers. One of our important suppliers is Hachette, which is part of a $10 billion media conglomerate. 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.,” adding that an agreement does not seem imminent.
Amazon continues saying that as part of a negotiating retailers have the right “to determine whether the terms on offer are acceptable and to stock items accordingly. A retailer can feature a supplier's items in its advertising and promotional circulars, "stack it high" in the front of the store, keep small quantities on hand in the back aisle, or not carry the item at all, and bookstores and other retailers do these every day. When we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers. 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.”
In a bid to keep with its customer-centric approach, Amazon notes that the “business interruption” affects a small percentage of Amazon's units and says that if a customer can’t find a book “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."
And in an attempt to keep authors on its side, Amazon says “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.”
Hachette, responding, said: "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.
The post closes by acknowledging the dispute has generated lots of media coverage “presumably in part because the negotiation is with a book publisher instead of a supplier of a different type of product." Amazozn says that "some of the coverage has expressed a relatively narrow point of view," and then touts an opinion offering a "wider perspective," and links to the blog post by Martin Shepard of Permanent Press that appeared in Tuesday’s PW Daily roundup.
Hachette's full statement, released just before noon Wednesday on the East Coast, is below:
"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."