Following tense months-long negotiations with Amazon, HarperCollins is reportedly planning to force ebook retailers to adopt agency pricing as early as next week.
Publishers Lunch reports that:
Multiple retailers report that Harper has informed them their selling terms will change as of Tuesday, April 14. (The change is actually effective midnight Pacific time, rather than Eastern. Amazon would be among those companies that naturally end their business day on Pacific time.) Harper is requiring retailers to implement all price changes within 24 hours.
Going forward Harper will require that their ebooks be sold at the publisher’s listed consumer price, without any discounts.
The notice going out to retailers is an interim measure; HC hasn’t signed contracts with all the retailers just yet. Something tells me that they have signed a new contract with Amazon, and that it will go into effect next week.
This comes as no surprise.
When I first reported on the HarperCollins-Amazon dispute earlier this month, I noted that many titles from Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan were showing that the prices were set by the publisher. That used to indicate that the ebooks were being sold under an agency agreement where the publisher set the price and the retailer was forbidden to discount.
In the past 6 months Amazon had negotiated contracts with Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan. Those contracts were described at the time as agency lite, but in retrospect I don’t think that term is accurate.
I was surveying ebook prices in the Kindle Store in late March when I noticed that nearly all the more popular titles from Simon & Schuster and Hachette mentioned that the prices were set by the publishers. Many Macmillan titles also had that notice (not Macmillan AUS or Palgrave Macmillan titles, though).
I concluded that Simon & Schuster and Hachette had a stronger agency deal than previously expected, and sarcastically suggested that HarperCollins wasn’t satisfied with the outright agency terms the other publishers enjoyed.
For a statement made in jest, that was surprisingly prophetic.
image by msbhaven