Amazon steps up pressure on Hachette US

Amazon steps up pressure on Hachette US

Amazon appears to have stepped up the pressure in its battle over terms with Hachette Book Group in the US, removing the pre-order button on a number of forthcoming titles including the new Robert Galbraith novel.

Instead of the option to pre-order, certain major titles are listed as “currently unavailable”, with customers offered the option of signing up to be emailed when the book is available.

Physical editions of J K Rowling’s next Galbraith novel, The Silkworm, out in the US on 19th June, and Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm, released in the US on 3rd June, are among the many titles affected by the removal of the pre-order option on the Amazon US site today.

Amazon and Hachette Book Group are currently seeking to come to new terms. Amazon declined to comment to Publishers Lunch on the latest development, with no comment forthcoming to the website from Hachette US yesterday (22nd May).

The move echoes one taken by Amazon in 2008 when it was negotiating terms with Hachette UK – then, it removed the buy-button from a number of titles from the publisher. However major forthcoming Hachette UK releases appear to be unaffected by the latest US development: Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes (Hodder & Stoughton), out on 3rd June, Penny Vincenzi's A Perfect Heritage (Headline Review, June 19th), and Martina Cole’s The Good Life (Headline, 9th October) are among those available to pre-order on

Earlier this month Hachette Book Group in the US accused Amazon of delaying delivery of some books, telling customers they would not be available for a number of weeks. Hachette spokeswoman Sophie Cottrell said it had been “satisfying all Amazon’s orders promptly” and that the internet retailer was delaying shipments for “reasons of their own”.

Jeffery Deaver and James Patterson are among the authors affected by slow delivery times, and both have weighed in on their Facebook accounts.

Patterson said: “Currently, Amazon is making it difficult to order many books from Little, Brown and Grand Central, which affects readers of authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, me, and hundreds of others whose living depends on book sales. What I don’t understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers. It certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors.

“More important—much more important—is the evolution/revolution that’s occurring now in publishing. Small bookstores are being shuttered, book chains are going out of business, libraries are suffering enormous budget cuts, and every publisher—and the people who work at these publishing houses—is feeling a great deal of pain and stress. Ultimately, inevitably, the quality of American literature will suffer.

“If the world of books is going to change to e-books, so be it. But I think it’s essential that someone steps up and takes responsibility for the future of American literature and the part it plays in our culture. Right now, bookstores, libraries, authors, and books themselves are caught in the cross fire of an economic war. If this is the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed—by law, if necessary—immediately, if not sooner.”

Deaver also said customers would find it more expensive to buy his books using Amazon as Amazon had reduced the “price discounts of my books and those written by other Hachette authors”. He wrote: “Equally troubling to me personally Amazon has added banner ads on my page for novels of other authors in the same genre, with the none-too-subtle headline: “Similar items for a lower price.”

“As Jesse Pinkman on 'Breaking Bad' would said, “Really? There are many sources for the book, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, and I hope you’ll find an alternative. As someone who labors hard to make reading my books an enjoyable experience, I’m sorry that some of you will have a less-than-happy time acquiring them.”

In Germany, Amazon is renegotiating its e-book contracts with Sweden’s Bonnier Group, and is also delaying shipping of ordered books, newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has reported.