HarperCollins/Amazon Contract Negotiations Subject of Speculation

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Following early April media reports that HarperCollins and Amazon had yet to reach a new contract agreement, Publishers Lunch reported on Wednesday that HarperCollins is moving to a full agency model for e-book sales as of midnight Pacific Time on Tuesday, April 14.

Publishers Lunch noted that the model would require that e-books “be sold at the publisher’s listed consumer price, without any discounts.” A notice reportedly sent by HarperCollins to retailers said that the measure was temporary and that HarperCollins was working on “more permanent new agency contracts.” HarperCollins declined to comment to Bookselling This Week on these reports.

On March 31, Business Insider, which lists Jeff Bezos as an investor, reported that the contract Amazon is offering HarperCollins is the same contract recently signed by Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan.

As early as August 2014, Forbes reported that HarperCollins and Amazon might be headed for a Hachette-like contract dispute, but the magazine noted that HarperCollins “had been taking steps to build and strengthen alternate retail channels, grow in size, and create new business lines both to bolster its existing position in the market and protect its future.”

Last year, Amazon and Hachette Book Group had a months-long contract dispute, during which Amazon was reportedly delaying shipments, restocking titles slowly, and not offering discounts or pre-ordering on many Hachette titles. Hachette and Amazon finally agreed to a multiyear contract for print and e-book sales in the U.S. in mid-November.

In an article dated April 2, James McQuivey of Forrester Research told Marketplace.com that “Amazon suffered quite a lot last year with the Hachette experience” and that a similar dispute was unlikely.

Under a September 2012 settlement in the e-book antitrust case brought by the Department of Justice against Apple and five of the major publishers, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster agreed to terminate all of their e-book agency agreements and were prevented from adopting new ones for two years.