Amazon-HarperCollins Negotiations Peek into Public View

Amazon HarperCollins agency ebook pricingAmazon’s contract negotiations with HarperCollins have come to a something of an impasse, according to an anonymous source Business Insider reports as knowledgeable about the matter.

It’s the first time the public has gotten any indication—however limited and hard to corroborate (HarperCollins has declined to comment)—that the publisher’s talks with Amazon may not be going smoothly.

HarperCollins’s distribution contract with Amazon is thought to have expired in September 2014, which leads Publishers Lunch to estimate that discussions of renewal terms probably “began something like a year ago.”

And since this certainly isn’t the first time negotiations between Amazon and a publisher have gone public, Publishers Lunch wagers further that the comment leaked to Business Insider—which counts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as an investor—”may be Amazon’s way of telling Harper, their authors, and others that the bookseller’s patience has worn out.”

In its standoff with Hachette last year, Amazon ultimately took its case directly to readers, hoping that drumming up support would put pressure on the publisher to accept its proposed terms.

Amazon claims, through a representative Business Insider quotes, that it’s “offered Harper the same terms for a contract that Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan have all recently agreed to.”

There’s a certain irony to that contention, not only because the contracts each of those publishers struck with Amazon likely aren’t identical even if the versions of agency ebook pricing they each resulted in are similar, but also because Amazon led the charge in 2010 that led the Department of Justice to investigate those very publishers for all reaching the same contract terms with Apple.

One thought on “Amazon-HarperCollins Negotiations Peek into Public View

  1. Michael W. Perry

    Negotiating with any bully, Amazon included, is likely to be a futile process. I spent some 10 months getting nowhere in a copyright dispute with the Tolkien estate. Despite the urging of the judge, they refused to budge an inch. In their minds, they were big, while I was a little author in Seattle who couldn’t afford a lawyer. Might makes right was their central mantra.

    What got them to change? We had concurrent motions for summary judgment and the moves I made at that point so terrified them, they wrote the judge offering to settle out of court. That letter is a matter of public record. Shortly after that, the judge put finished on their lawsuit by dismissing it \with prejudice.\ There is no better way to win a legal dispute.

    The major publishers need to put fear into the heart of Amazon’s executives. The DOJ won’t do that as long as Obama and his Chicago-machine politics rules White House. Appeals to the importance of keep publishing healthy and diverse won’t work either. Bezos is a uber-geek who has no taste. He sees books as just another commodity. The more publishers who roll belly up, the better it is for Amazon’s own publishing arm.

    Ethical appeals won’t work either. Amazon’s upper ranks are filled with lawyers for whom truth means \a lie you get away with.\ The article noted one such lie when it pointed out that Amazon’s claims that the deal offered HarperCollins deal was the same as that other major publishers had signed couldn’t be true because those deals differed.

    The major publishers have grown soft in their Manhattan suites and need to more creative in how they fight back. Amazon’s got more than a few skeletons in its closet. As an Amazon software developer told me, \Never trust Amazon search results.\ To be blunt, Amazon search is deceptive in nasty ways, doing their best to steer customers to higher priced options. That’s been true at least since about 2002 because an Amazon lawyer admitted just that to me. Use that against them. The more insecure they feel, the better for publishing and for authors. That’s another option.

    Hit Amazon hard about how cheap they are, often paying authors half what Apple pays them. \If you like an author, buy his or her books from Apple to give them more money.\ You might even want to pay authors better royalties for ebook sales through other outlets than through Amazon. They’ll steer readers to those other outlets.

    The major publishers also need to improve how they’re arguing their case to the public. I won that copyright dispute because I made some clever moves the opposing lawyers couldn’t counter. These publishers need to quit whining and come up with some clever ideas and moves of their own. This is war. Treat it like war.

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