July 10, 2014, 9:33 AM

The Amazon-Hachette book pricing dispute heats up

The two companies, engaged in a pricing battle for months, release dueling statements.

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New dueling statements indicate that the pricing and revenue dispute between Amazon.com Inc. and publisher Hachette Book Group has a ways to go before it’s resolved.

Amazon, the perennial champ of the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has released a letter aimed at Hachette offering to “take authors out of the middle” of the dispute by awarding writers “100% of the sales price of every Hachette e-book we sell.” The web-only merchant also says it would “return to normal levels of on-hand [Hachette] print inventory, return to normal pricing in all formats, and for books that haven’t gone on sale yet, reinstate pre-orders.”

Hachette, apparently sensing a divide-and-conquer attempt on the part of Amazon, rejected the offer. “We believe that the best outcome for the writers we publish is a contract with Amazon that brings genuine marketing benefits and whose terms allow Hachette to continue to invest in writers, marketing, and innovation,” the publisher says in a statement.“ We look forward to resolving this dispute soon and to the benefit of the writers who have trusted their books to us.”

The dispute involves terms for Hachette titles, reportedly including the prices of e-books for the retailer’s Kindle devices. Amazon has stopped pre-orders of some Hachette titles and delayed shipments of others. The dispute reportedly affects some 5,000 books.

The roots of this dispute go back about four years, when Amazon signed a new electronic book pricing agreement with Hachette Book Group enabling the publisher to set the prices of their own books. That was a concession for Amazon, which had been heavily discounting e-books as a way to drum up interest in the Kindle, which Amazon introduced in 2007. The pricing agreement expired earlier this year. Amazon, though, has lately been seeking to get more favorable terms from Hachette on e-books, and the publisher is not giving ground. Amazon, in its recent statement, says it has heard nothing from Hachette for a while. “After our last proposal to them on June 5th, they waited a week to respond at all, promising a counteroffer the following week,” Amazon says. “We are still waiting a month later.”

Hachette calls upon Amazon to rescind its bait to authors. “Amazon has just sent us a brief proposal.  We invite Amazon to withdraw the sanctions they have unilaterally imposed, and we will continue to negotiate in good faith and with the hope of a swift conclusion,” the publisher says.

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