Hachette Book Group in the US has accused Amazon of delaying delivery of books by authors including James Patterson and Stephen Colbert, as the two companies seek to come to new terms. The row has echoes of Hachette UK’s battle with Amazon in 2008, which resulted in Amazon removing the buy-button from a number of its titles. This time around Amazon appears to be telling its customers that there is limited availability of some Hachette USA titles.
According to a New York Times report, some books published by Hachette are being marked as unavailable for a period of weeks on Amazon’s website, with Hachette saying Amazon is delaying shipments for “reasons of their own”. The internet retailer refused to comment on the accusations.
Hachette spokeswoman Sophie Cottrell said that it was not “normal policy to comment on negotiations underway with any retailer” but added: “However, we have been asked legitimate questions about why many of our books are at present marked out of stock with relatively long estimated shipping times on the Amazon website, in contrast to immediate availability on other websites and in stores. We are satisfying all Amazon’s orders promptly, and notifying them constantly of forthcoming publicity events and of out-of-stock situations on their website.”
But she said that Amazon was holding “minimal stock” and restocking some of Hachette’s books “slowly, causing ‘available 2-4 weeks’ messages for reasons of their own”.
"We are grateful for the patience of authors and all Amazon readers as we work to reach an agreement and to encourage Amazon to be back to offering Hachette Book Group's books within normal shipment times,” she added.
Among the books affected is James Patterson’s Alex Cross, Run, which is showing a wait time of two to five weeks on Amazon.com today.
Stephen Colbert’s America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t is showing as available within two to three weeks.
The re-stocking of books has been “an issue for a few weeks, roughly”, Cottrell told Publishers Marketplace. The website said that the move by Amazon “appears to be designed to exert pressure on Hachette regarding revised terms of sale, which is the "agreement" that is being negotiated”.
It is not known if these are new terms discussions, or part of an ongoing negotiation. In the UK some publishers have complained about a toughening up of Amazon’s contracts over the past six months, but so far there has been no open disagreement.