Business Insider reports that HarperCollins is in the midst of a bitter contract renegotiation with Amazon, and it's not going well. Very few details have been leaked, but we do know that:
The contract between "Big Five" book publisher HarperCollins and Amazon is about to expire and HarperCollins is refusing to sign an agreement with the new terms that Amazon is asking, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Business Insider.
Amazon reportedly offered the same deal to HC that they signed with Hachette, S&S, and Macmillan late last year. We don't know at this time whether the sticking points with HC are print or digital, I would recommend against assuming that digital is the problem.
No one has released specifics on the earlier contracts, but the ebook components of those contracts have repeatedly been referred to as agency lite.
I'm not sure that is correct. I happen to have been looking at the Kindle ebook prices for Hachette, S&S, and Macmillan over the past week or so, and I don't think we should describe this as a lighter version of agency.
Of the top 20 most popular titles for each publisher, nearly all S&S and Hachette titles indicated that "this price was set by the publisher"(*). That used to be a sign that they're being sold under agency, with the publisher dictating the price and Amazon blocked from discounting.
It's not clear what that statement means now, but when paired with ebooks priced above $10 and ending in $X.99, I think we're looking at agency.
My point, folks, is that I wouldn't assume digital is the issue, and I wouldn't assume that Amazon is the villain. There's too much that we don't know here.
P.S. The reason I mention S&S and Hachette but not Macmillan is that it is harder to tell which part of Macmillan published an ebook. The US division appears to have agency; Macmillan Australia and Palgrave Macmillan do not.
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