For months, authors have complained about being caught in the middle of a very public spat between Amazon, the world's largest bookseller, and publisher Hachette. Amazon has aggressively worked to secure better contract terms with the publisher, and in the process has turned to controversial "negotiation tactics" like halting pre-orders for upcoming Hachette books, cutting down on physical inventory, and hitting customers with abnormally long shipping delays. But now the company is offering to reverse those decisions, which authors have roundly criticized as unfair and a glaring example of Amazon abusing its dominant market position.
Now, Amazon says it's willing to give authors something more: a bigger cut of ebook sales. The online retailer has offered to provide Hachette authors with 100 percent of ebook revenues as negotiations between the two sides continue. Both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are reporting that Amazon has circulated the offer via a letter sent to authors and their agents.
Amazon says it's willing to pull back some of its stiff negotiating tactics
Should Hachette agree, Amazon says it will restore "normal levels of on-hand print inventory, return to normal pricing in all formats, and for books that haven't gone on sale yet, reinstate pre-orders." From Amazon's perspective, this would basically remove authors from the drawn out fight and relieve them from the awkward position they're currently stuck in. It's also clearly a move designed to bring the authors — many of whom have backed Hachette in the dispute — closer to Amazon's side.
But some recipients, including the Authors Guild, aren't buying it. "If Amazon wants to have a constructive conversation about this, we’re ready to have one at any time," Roxana Robinson, the group's president, said in a statement to the Times. "But this seems like a short-term solution that encourages authors to take sides against their publishers. It doesn’t get authors out of the middle of this — we’re still in the middle. Our books are at the center of this struggle."
Amazon insists it's actively trying to resolve the situation, but says recent talks have been one-sided. "After our last proposal to them on June 5th, they waited a week to respond at all, promising a counteroffer the following week. We are still waiting a month later," the company said in its letter. Amazon has so far defended its tactics, claiming the ongoing rift is similar to those publishers and other media suppliers regularly experience with retailers. HarperCollins, another huge publisher, just launched a new consumer sales website as its own renegotiation period with Amazon reportedly looms.