Lions Agree How To Divide The Lambs

Publisher Hachette and online seller Amazon announced Thursday they have reached an agreement to end eleven months of economic warfare over e-book pricing that cost everyone involved, especially book authors who were least able to afford it. The New York Times reported the outline of the deal:

The multiyear agreement, which includes both e-books and print books, broadly follows a deal Amazon recently worked out with Simon & Schuster. A source with knowledge of that deal said it was negotiated relatively quickly and gave the publisher control over most of its pricing but offered incentives to sell at lower prices. Amazon got increased co-op funds, the payments for placement on the retailer’s website. Simon & Schuster declined to confirm the terms.

Hachette won the ability to set its own prices for e-books, which is regards as critical to its survival. Amazon had been using its leverage in an attempt to compel lower e-book prices, arguing that e-books are overpriced, and a lower price would increase the volume of sales to a degree that would compensate for a lower price.

The Authors United group, with 1500 members, including some of today’s best-known writers, had publicly criticized Amazon’s tactics in a September letter. They said Amazon was:

Boycotting Hachette authors, by refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette authors’ books and eBooks, claiming they are “unavailable.”

Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette authors’ books.

Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette authors’ books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.

–Suggesting on some Hachette authors’ pages that readers might prefer a book from a non-Hachette author instead.

Amazon’s sales reportedly suffered from bad publicity about its tactics.

Authors United founder Douglas Preston, a writer published by Hachette, had this to say about Thursday’s resolution:

“I’m relieved that Amazon and Hachette reached an agreement,” Mr. Preston said. But he added: “If anyone thinks this is over, they are deluding themselves. Amazon covets market share the way Napoleon coveted territory.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]