Amazon has finally issued a statement about the little spat going on between itself and Hachette, in the form of a post to its Kindle forum. It basically says about the same thing everyone who’s taken Amazon’s side on the blogs so far has said: Amazon is simply negotiating the prerogative of any retailer in negotiating with a supplier for better terms and deciding how to stock and sell their product based on those terms.
Unfortunately, Amazon and Hachette haven’t been able to come to mutually-acceptable terms, and Amazon is “not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.” (Not exactly a surprise. There’s still plenty of time left in Amazon’s existing contract with Hachette as far as I know, which is why there’s so much other pressure being brought to bear from one side or another; they don’t have an immediate deadline to work toward.)
Amazon also points out that the dispute affects only 1.1% of Amazon items weighted by demand, and suggests that anyone who needs an affected item quickly should purchase it from one of its competitors. Amazon also states that it has offered to fund 50% of a Hachette-allocated author pool to mitigate the effect of the dispute on author royalties, as it did with Macmillan when it removed that publisher’s “Buy” buttons during the agency pricing dispute.
And, finally, Amazon notes that some of the news coverage “has expressed a relatively narrow point of view” and links to a blog post by Martin Shepard, co-publisher of small publisher The Permanent Press, which expresses similar sentiments to those posts we’ve mentioned by David Gaughran and Joe Konrath. (So how cool is that, when Amazon links to your blog post?)
Shepard complains about the biased nature of the New York Times’s coverage, and notes that, from the Permanent Press’s perspective, Amazon has been a godsend. Unlike most stores, distributors, and wholesalers, who return from 20 to 80% of stock they order, Amazon usually returns only 1-2%, enabling them to cut down on their print runs. It makes posting reviews easy, pays great earnings on Kindle sales, and pays within 30 days. He concludes:
I always have a lingering suspicion that when one of the large publishing cartels complains they are being treated unfairly by Amazon, it’s probably good for most all of the smaller, independent presses. When the Times allows a poorly researched, inaccurate anti-Amazon screed to appear, it makes me want to stand up for Jeff Bezos and Amazon, and present a very different point of view which I hope will balance out what I consider blatant propaganda. And I would encourage other publishers who feel similarly to email me and speak out as well.
When you get right down to it, there’s not a lot in Amazon’s statement that we hadn’t already known or guessed, but in some ways it could be taken as a shot across Hachette’s bow—a reminder of how few items in Amazon’s catalog Hachette accounts for (only 11 out of 1,000 items affected—we can see who needs who more for sure), and a bit of outreach toward disgruntled Hachette authors such as Lilith Saintcrow or Charlie Stross with that 50% author pool offer.
It’s not very detailed and probably won’t change many minds (or cut down on the rhetoric from either side), but at least it’s something. We can now say we’ve heard extremely general PR statements from both Hachette and Amazon. And it’s not as if we have the right to hear more from either side. The terms of contract negotiations are supposed to be secret. (Though it’s not as if that stopped the Big Five from leaking their terms to each other during their simultaneous agency pricing negotiations with Amazon back in 2010. But then, that’s why the negotiations are being staggered now.)