The story posted earlier this week by Business Insider asserting that HarperCollins has refused to sign a new sales agreement with Amazon has caused a stir in industry circles. That another major publisher might be entering a stalemate with the retailer touched a nerve, given the drawn-out, often acrimonious, negotiation that went on last year between the Hachette Book Group and Amazon. It is believed that HC’s print and e-book agreements with Amazon are close to expiring, and that the two parties have been negotiating new terms for the past few months. An HC spokesperson said the company does not comment on contracts with retailers.
The Business Insider story quotes an Amazon spokesperson saying that the online retailer has offered the same contract to HC that Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and HBG signed. That line caught the attention of several industry members, who wondered, given the scrutiny of terms deals following the Apple lawsuit, how HC would know anything about the nature of the deals Amazon reached with the other three publishers.
Other industry members speculated that, because Business Insider counts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos among its investors, the story is the first escalation in the negotiations. These insiders feel that the story is a way for Amazon to turn up the heat on HC without resorting to the tactics it used last year against HBG, tactics that, in the end, hurt both HBG and Amazon.
HC would not be quite as vulnerable to Amazon delaying shipments or other the other actions it took against HBG last year since its list contains much more Christian, romance and children’s titles that have solid sales outside of Amazon. And HC has worked aggressively to find other e-book channels to offer its books through other than Amazon. It recently launched a more ambitious direct-selling program and has also added thousands of titles through the major subscription services.