If you’ve been reading my blog at all for the past year, chances are you’ve run across at least one of the three individual articles I wrote about the online publishing battle being waged between internet-retailer-powerhouse Amazon and Hachette, a publishing house that was pretty unsatisfied with Amazon’s involvement and control of ebook sales and prices.
The news of this legal tug-of-war broke, from what I remember, in May, so it’s been going on for six months. It started with Amazon intentionally delaying the sale or shipping of certain titles from authors under Hachette (and, I think, a few other publishers at first, too), upping the price on these titles, or simply refusing to sell them at all. This obviously pissed off a lot of readers–and, I imagine, the writers whose work was being kept from selling.
After that, Amazon started offering certain Hachette writers all the profits from their ebook sales through the Kindle, which sounds like it should be awesome except for the fact that all it really did was prove that Amazon was trying to get Hachette’s writers on their side of the fight. From the articles I read, most of the Hachette writers weren’t really convinced by this, especially since they owed their published-status to Hachette and not to Amazon in the first place. Driving a wedge between the writers and the publishing house? Not a wise move, Amazon.
When that didn’t work, Amazon finally sent a plea to customers themselves, asking them to write to Hachette directly and request that Hachette reduce ebook prices to $9.99. The main worry people had about this was that such a low eBook price on new releases would guarantee that the publisher didn’t sell many hard-copy versions at all, and since one source I read said most of an author’s royalties came from hard-copy sales and not ebook sales, this could be damaging to writers, even if it is beneficial to Hachette and Amazon.
Long story short, this has basically been a big battle about the pricing of ebooks, what’s fair, and who should have control over setting those numbers. It’s been weird and messy and, man, it’s hard to see a cut-and-dry solution, right?
Apparently not, because Amazon and Hachette settled this disagreement behind closed-doors this week, and from what I can tell, no one really knows the terms of the settlement at all!
As this article says, it was an anticlimactic end to a really bizarre fight. It looks like Hachette (maybe?) got what it wanted, but Amazon’s Kindle VP David Naggar claims there are some “specific financial incentives” in the agreement to keep Hachette from pricing it’s books too high.
I’m not exactly sure what all of it means, except that it’s finally over. Readers and writers alike can now worry a little less about what’s going on in the online publishing world (if they were ever really worried at all).
I, for one, am glad, because I personally rely on Amazon for EVERYTHING and I didn’t want to see this turn into something ugly that would damage writers’ careers!