Amazon speaks out on HBG dispute

Amazon speaks out on HBG dispute

The usually reticent Amazon has spoken out over its terms stand-off with Hachette Book Group in the US, saying it is “not optimistic” that the dispute will be resolved soon.

The online retailer has also claimed to have offered to contribute to a financial "author pool" to help “mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties”.

The US stand-off has seen Hachette Book Group titles facing delivery times of up to five weeks, with some key summer titles having pre-order buttons removed. The dispute has seen accusations of "bullying" levelled at Amazon over its business tactics, and angry Facebook posts from affected authors including James Patterson and Jeffrey Deaver.

In a public post on its Kindle forum, Amazon has now taken the unusual step of laying out its position on the dispute, saying it is currently buying less print inventory and “safety stock” on titles from Hachette, and no longer taking pre-orders on forthcoming titles.

The changes are "related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon”, it said. “Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually acceptable agreement on terms.”

The retailer appeared to place some responsibility for delivery delays at the door of HBG, saying: "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."

Amazon said: “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. Even more unfortunate, though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.” The online retailer said the dispute affected a small percentage of items, and it regretted the inconvenience caused to customers. It also said if customers did need an affected title, it would “encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors”.

It described negotiating with suppliers for acceptable terms as "an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term", saying: “When we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers."

The retailer also said it had offered to fund 50% of an author pool, if Hachette funded the other 50%, to help “mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties”. Amazon claimed it had done the same during a dispute "with the publisher Macmillan some years ago” and that it hoped Hachette would take the offer up.

Addressing the media coverage the dispute had received, Amazon complained that some had “expressed a relatively narrow point of view”, linking to a more sympathetic blog which it said offered a “wider perspective”.

Earlier HBG said: "We are doing everything in our power to find a solution to this difficult situation, one that best serves our authors and their work, and that preserves our ability to survive and thrive as a strong and author-centric publishing company."