amazonSo the battle over book pricing may have started a bit earlier this spring. Last year it wasn’t in full swing until May. This year is starting with April, assuming the Business Insider article yesterday wasn’t an April Fool’s joke (doubtful).

So far the coverage has been moderate with only one article leaving me scratching my head. Publisher’s Weekly had this quote:

The Business Insider story quotes an Amazon spokesperson saying that the online retailer has offered the same contract to HC that Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and HBG signed. That line caught the attention of several industry members, who wondered, given the scrutiny of terms deals following the Apple lawsuit, how HC would know anything about the nature of the deals Amazon reached with the other three publishers.

harpercollinsPerhaps I totally mis-read the quote (I am a bit caffeine-deficient today), but I think it was an Amazon spokesperson who was quoted, not an HC spokesperson. Amazon would certainly have intimate knowledge of the deals they reached with all the other publishers.

Anyway, it’s too early to tell if this will reach the Amazon/Hachette level of coverage, and I hope it doesn’t. I was turned off by all sides in that debate last year: Amazon, Hachette and Authors United. Sites like The Passive Voice exploded in rancorous “indie” vs “traditional” rhetoric last year, and I haven’t recovered enough to go through it all again.

Granted, I probably follow the news on this issue more than the average book reader, but I have realized that the fracas last year affected my book buying and reading. I just checked my book buying from November of last year (when Amazon/Hachette was ended and limited agency began) and now. I’ve purchased half the number of full-priced, traditionally published books as in the same period 2013-2014. Some of that is attributable to Scribd. A large part, though, is that my faith in traditional publishers and many of their authors was damaged by the fight. (Admittedly, my faith in traditional publishing wasn’t too high before that.) The difference would have been more stark if I hadn’t gone on a Dark Tower binge. Half of my recent full-price purchases were Dark Tower books.

Several authors who had been on my “must buy” list moved to my “never buy ever” list because of the fight. I suppose a fight with HarperCollins will have less personal impact because I already read most of their books in Scribd. However, we still have Penguin Random House to go, and they are the biggest of the Five.

If, as many are saying, HarperCollins feels they are in a good position to go up against Amazon because they have direct sales from their website, I gotta say, not going to convince this reader. I admit I’m lazy. With few exceptions, if I can’t buy from Amazon, I’m not buying. If a book I want isn’t available on Amazon, I’ll go buy a different book. HarperCollins can have a major sale from their site, and I’ll never know about it. All my price alerts (from eReader IQ) are based on Amazon pricing.

We’ll see where this goes or if it’s even a real battle. I hope someone got their information wrong, though. I have better things to do this summer than watch another round of Retailers, Authors and Publishers Behaving Badly.


  1. “Perhaps I totally mis-read the quote (I am a bit caffeine-deficient today), but I think it was an Amazon spokesperson who was quoted, not an HC spokesperson.”

    It wasn’t just you, Juli. I had to read that paragraph from PW three times before I could be sure it was them and not me. Those folks need an editor.

  2. I’d consider buying from HC directly if they took Amazon payments.

    No, I wouldn’t. I’m just not interested in setting up a new account and giving my personal and payment information to another retailer. I used to buy all over the place before agency pricing in an effort to support the little guy but when the retailers I frequented couldn’t get the books I wanted, I went to Amazon. Now I just buy myself a gift card on the first of the month and try to make it last until the end of the month. I found so many new writers when agency pricing went into effect that I just don’t have to worry about it right now.

  3. Obviously HC thinks it has wiggle room when negotiating with Amazon. What that actually means is anybody’s guess. But I think there is a market for HC books even at agency prices. Maybe I’m the lone ebook reader who has never discovered a new author in the indie self-published world, but I’m going to say HC believes there are enough readers to support the business model they envision.

    In the end, my guess is they’ll sign the same contract as the other publishers.

    • @Greg M, oh I’m sure they believe it, but that doesn’t make it so. I’ve pretty much given up on agency prices. I use the library and Scribd for agency-priced trad-pubbed books, buy things on sale, and yes, read those indie-published books. 🙂 I’ve found many authors I enjoy.

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