When I broke the news on Monday that US publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt might have signed an agency deal with Amazon, I said that I didn't think it had happened _yet_, and I advised that this story was worth watching.
It looks like I was right on both accounts.
Publisher's Lunch caught the story Tuesday. They don't have an inside source (I was hoping they would, darnit) but they did notice the declaration you can see at right. After looking at ebook prices across retailers, PL reported that the deal had gone down.
I think they are right.
I've reviewed the prices of HMH ebooks in iBooks, Kindle, Kobo, Play Books, and Nook stores Wednesday morning, and I can confirm that the prices are considerably more consistent than they were on Monday afternoon.
With the exception of Kobo, which sometimes showed a significantly higher price, all of the major ebook retailers showed prices within roughly the same range. The prices were generally with 20% of each other and of the (assumed) retail price.
And so, I think it is safe to say that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has struck a new contract with ebook retailers with terms similar to the contracts that the Big Five (Hachette, Macmillan, S&S, HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House) signed over the past 10 months.
We do not know the terms, but the contracts do appear to limit discounting from the price set by the publisher. At this time the common name for this type of deal is Agency Lite.
I hope I'm not the only one who wonders why HMH signed this deal in 2015. This publisher is bigger than S&S, and yet HMH has not pushed for a similar deal in the five years since the first agency deals were signed.
But now they have an agency contract. That is, and I'm not exaggerating here, an important turning point of some kind.
I wish I knew what was going on behind the scenes, because something just changed in the US ebook market.
If you have a contact, go ask them what's going on (I have thumbscrews, should you need them).