It was only a year ago that the publishing industry sat riveted as it waited to see how the storm between Amazon and publisher Hachette was going to play out. Hachette wanted new terms in light of the DOJ price fixing investigation, and Amazon wasn’t about to budge. And with a 95% control of the ebook market, it’s easy to see why Amazon didn’t think freezing its sales of Hachette titles could possibly spiral out into a flaming pile of contract negotiation.
Once that fiasco was resolved, other publishers were quick to jump aboard the “we set our own prices” bandwagon, and other issues between Amazon and members of the Big Five arose. But the latest in the battle parade, HarperCollins, doesn’t seem as keen to accept the deal that Amazon is holding out.
While both groups have been stereotypically mute about what exactly this contract involves, Amazon has stated that it’s the same contract terms that the other members have agreed to. HarperCollins is holding out for something else, something that a few sources have said may involve access to the sales data that Amazon gathers. Amazon does not release customer data, and with good reason; HarperCollins has been steadily building an ebook sales channel while encouraging consumers to shop at other outlets besides Amazon. With access to the names and email addresses of Amazon’s customers who’ve bought HarperCollins’ titles, the publisher could make a run for selling directly to the consumer with the push of a MailChimp button.
But this begs the question: how are authors and readers–the very people who are supposed to be at the core of the publishing industry–affected by these types of negotiation disputes? Last summer’s Hachette dispute resulted in open letters from authors and celebrities begging, nay demanding, that consumers stop spending money on Amazon. At the same time, authors spoke out about their livelihoods being disrupted, although most leveraged their complaints at Amazon rather than at the publishers who were taking a hefty percentage of their royalties.
As if authors hadn’t already found enough reason to self-publish, reasons such as creative control, higher royalties, and freedom to publish any type of content they wish, these constant battles with retailers may provide enough reason for more authors to move on. Higher caliber authors who are still commanding large advances, ambitious marketing budgets, and multi-book deals will probably stay comfortably put, but even the midlist authors may have found yet another reason to stop playing around with traditional publishing and go after their own careers.