Another Explanation for the Hachette Delays

Has anyone paused to consider how difficult and expensive it would be for Amazon to delay the shipment of certain books by certain publishers? It would be a massive pain in the ass!

What is almost certainly happening with the delivery time of Hachette’s books is that Amazon isn’t keeping its predicted sales quantity in stock. One of the major advancements in retail over the past several decades has been the move to on-time delivery. It means an order for new product is made before it’s needed, so the product spends as little time warehoused as possible. This ability is worth billions; it is expensive to develop and hone; and it’s a service that Amazon provides to all of its retail partners. Hachette and the rest of the Big 5 can’t possibly appreciate what this skill entails nor how much they benefit from Amazon’s expertise in this area.

When Amazon stopped stocking predicted sales quantities, that put the shipping burden on Hachette, a company that’s dreadful at delivering at high speeds. They haven’t had to master this skill. Amazon has done it for them. Hachette author Michael Sullivan suspected the shipment delays were from Hachette’s end and not Amazon’s. He asked his publisher for shipping invoices. Hachette refused to provide this information to its author. The delays are far more likely to be Hachette’s fault, not Amazon’s.

A bit of an aside here to tell you what ordering books was like at the last bookstore I worked for. We had several sources for books. We could order from one of the major distributors like Ingram or Baker & Taylor and get the books within three days. The discount was generally around 40%. We could also use NACS (the National Association of College Stores). This was like shopping on Amazon, with a great website (but horrible search ability). These books might come in two days. The discount was also around 40%. Most of our orders went directly to publishers.* This got us the best discount by far — from 45% to 50%, depending on the publisher, title, and quantity. These books took at least a week to arrive, usually longer. Often, it was two weeks. By the time these books arrived, I barely remembered having ordered them.

The ordering process was also bizarre. To order books, you called an actual person and read off the ISBN and quantity for each book you wanted. Seriously. It was my least favorite task at the bookstore. It could take half an hour to place a large order. Half an hour of saying numbers to a stranger. And every tenth book, they’d say that the book was no longer available. You didn’t know until you ordered. Two or three years ago, publishers started moving toward an online ordering system, which I worked to get us on, but this wasn’t much easier. It meant typing out all the numbers and delimiting them with commas. You’d have to see this process to believe it. I certainly didn’t. I assumed we were the only bookstore in the world that still did this. I couldn’t believe there were full-time jobs for people to sit there and take phone orders for books.

Back to Hachette and Amazon: Imagine what it would mean for Amazon to purposefully delay orders. You have an entire network of distribution centers, warehouse pickers, packing/shipping/trucking processes, and in order to spite a company you’re in negotiations with, you begin artificially delaying shipment of only certain copies. So into this complex machinery of sending out products all over the world, you toss this wrench: “Yo, keep moving products as quickly as humanly possible. Unless it’s a book by Hachette, in which case slow the process down.”

Someone pointed out that this could be done digitally, but why go through the trouble? Why not show the publisher what the customer experience would be if Amazon wasn’t there to predict the orders and handle the shipping? That’s what my boss and I did at our bookstore. We watched inventory levels and made our publisher orders a week in advance to minimize our out-of-stock time. Rather than an artificial delay, it’s far more likely that Amazon adjusted the predicted demand for Hachette titles, maybe even to zero. So here’s a hypothesis that explains both the delayed shipping and the removal of pre-order buttons: Amazon isn’t certain it will be selling Hachette books in the near future.

Think about it. A pre-order is a guarantee of a future transaction. It would be remiss for Amazon to offer pre-orders for items it won’t legally be able to sell when they eventually become available. It would also be remiss for Amazon to stock millions of dollars worth of inventory it won’t legally be able to sell in the near future and would have to return at great expense. The moment Amazon realized negotiations were breaking down (as their press release recently intimated), they had to reduce their exposure to Hachette inventory. That means reducing future sales, which is what pre-orders and predicted warehouse quantities represent.

These moves by Amazon might be less about spite and more about pragmatism. Even legality. That book you pre-ordered from us two months ago? We no longer have a sales relationship with that manufacturer. Here’s your refund.

Both major moves explained by a probable and unbelievable reality: Soon, there may not be any Hachette books on Amazon at all.


*Two reasons for placing most of our orders directly with publishers: The first is that bookstores make most of their margin in that 3-5% they save. The second is that returns to publishers for unsold frontlist titles can be as high as 50%, but you can only return a percentage of what you order. Placing all backlist and re-stock orders through the publisher padded this number to make sure we never fell outside of our returns margin.

59 responses to “Another Explanation for the Hachette Delays”

  1. There will be plenty of Hachette books, Hugh. Of course, they’ll be from used book sellers and authors won’t see a penny…

    1. Other retailers need to step up and start promoting all their Hachette titles so authors and readers don’t suffer. Walmart is doing this and has seen a 70% increase in profits.

      1. Not exactly accurate, not profits:
        “Walmart sales of print books (not including e-books), were up 70 percent since Tuesday, according to the company.” This doesn’t really mean much, 70% from what?


  2. Fingers crossed that comes true! It would probably be a dip in sales for authors to start with, but should be great for independent book stores and would help wake customers up to the fact that Amazon isn’t “The Everything Store” it claims to be.

    1. Are you serious? This is a parody/troll comment right? I thought so!

      Indie bookstores are thriving, their numbers have been steadily increasing. Anyone in the industry (except for those who cannot untangle themselves from the traditional publishers, including agents), knows this issue is because Hachette want to bring back agency pricing to protect their print book sales. Agents and authors can’t come out publicly against Hachette but plenty are in private.

      Amazon offered to fund 50% on an author compensation pool and Hachette pissed on it. They couldn’t give a shit about their authors and a lot of them are very, very upset with Hachette.

      All I can end with is – keep blaming Amazon when it’s the future that’s happening here. Companies that exploited authors for decades are in denial and still think they are relevant. The truth is they need to massively change/adapt to the future or they’ll just die off.

      1. Actually, Amazon offered 70% and asked Hatchette to chip in with the other 30%. Otherwise, you are correct.

  3. I do wonder what the actual current shipping times for Hachette books are. Often Amazon shows shipping delays for an item and it arrives much faster than they predicted. But I only buy ebooks so I can’t test this one. :)

  4. I agree with most of what you’ve been posting on the hatchett/amazon thing. But I think you’re wrong about the difficulty of delayed shipping. They already delay orders by a day or two for non-prime customers who choose free shipping. It’s not much of a stretch to think they could do this by title.

    Fedex does the same thing. I see it in tracking all the time. Pay for 3 day letter? It almost always arrives at the destination next day and they let it sit in the warehouse marked “not due for delivery” for 2 more days before putting it on the truck.

    1. That is understandable for FedEx, since you often have to sign for a package. If I pay for something and it says it is coming on a Tuesday, I don’t want it showing up early, I want it on Tuesday.

      1. Why don’t you want your packages showing up early? I can understand for a TV or a refrigerator but why for a book?

  5. Yes! Amazon is a distributor. If there is no contract between amazon and hatchette then they are NOT Hatchettes distributor. I have been saying all weekend at Concarolinas

  6. Now that’s a chilling thought. There are a ton of Hachette authors (from various houses, but most notably Orbit) my life feels richer with.

    I admire Hachette for playing hardball with Amazon on this, but I fear for how well it will ultimately serve their authors and business. I’m hoping Amazon blinks first.

  7. One thing Hachette could do to undercut Amazon immediately – offer e-books on its website and reduce prices to more realistic levels. Problem solved!

    1. So… I ordered an e-book directly last week, from the Hachette website. They merrily took my money and gave me a download link. Clicking the link tells me that the ebook has yet to be published. The problem I have is that the download link is valid for 14 days, but the ebook is published in 16 days. And there was no mention that the ebook was yet to be published when I placed the order. I still don’t know if I’ll be able to download it when it does get published. And if I do manage to download it? I have to strip out the DRM so I can read it on my Kindle. I totally regret buying directly from this publisher and will be purchasing all future books from Amazon again.

      1. Annnnnnd that’s what you have to look forward to when you deal with publishers directly, which is why they will never beat Amazon. They’re simply incompetent. If they could do better, they would have already. The people hoping for a rally from trad pub are really deluding themselves (and they’re mostly trad pub authors who will be out of jobs if they keep betting on the wrong horse.)

    2. You’re operating under the assumption that Hachette would be happy to sell books at those “reduced”, “realistic levels”. History shows this to be untrue.

      -In September of 2012, Hachette raised ebook prices for libraries 220% on most titles, more on other titles. There are some titles that libraries must pay $100 each for – and they’re EBOOKS.

      -Just this past Wednesday, Hachette raised ebook prices for libraries in France 300%, and removed the ability for the library to lend the book to three people at a time.

      -Don’t forget that Hachette was part of the DoJ collusion suit, in which Hachette and others were illegally attempting to price-fix ebooks at a much higher price. Hachette settled.

      Hachette isn’t interested in reduced prices. It wants higher prices – MUCH higher, if their library antics are any indication. How would you like to pay $35+ for a digital ebook?

    3. Except that the whole reason for the dispute between Hatchette and Amazon is that the publisher will never do that. They want the highest prices they can charge for their books, no matter the cost to authors and readers.

  8. Wait, I’m confused…people thought anything different at any point in time since this whole issue started?

    I thought the original kerfluffle was because Hachette was already delaying the shipment of books to Amazon which is why they pulled the pre-orders and started delaying current books in the first place?

  9. It reminds me of the saying: never attribute to malice what can be explained as ignorance (incompetence, etc). So many people are ready and willing to make Amazon the bully, or make Hachette the bully – when there are issues on both sides of the line, and at the end of the day it does come down to a purely business decision. Hugh is right when he says that Amazon won’t want to take orders for items that they may not be able to sell in the future. It’s just more hassle for Amazon to take those orders, then potentially have to refund them all (and deal with customers who are grumpy because “I paid for this book, so I demand that you send it to me!”).

  10. Saw you speak at the BEA self-publishing expo this weekend–really enjoyed your panel, so thank you!

    As someone who has worked in tech and e-commerce for many years, my jaw dropped when I read how you had to place orders at a bookstore. So inefficient!

  11. I’m not saying Amazon is doing this, but it would be quite trivial for them to delay fulfilling Hachette orders. Their fulfillment systems are sufficiently advanced that they can delay the “pick” for any item or order they choose for as long as they like. They already do this by prioritizing Prime and Paid shipping over free shipping orders.

    1. But why tweak the system at that stage? Why continue investing in a company you might stop doing business with? Holding inventory means sending payments to Hachette. Why order their books, put them in a warehouse, and then slow the delivery by a week or two weeks? It doesn’t make any sense.

      If the delays were for a day or two, I could see what you’re suggesting. But there might be legal ramifications if Amazon did that. They aren’t required to pre-stock items if they don’t want, but I do think they would be required to fulfill Prime member orders as quickly as advertised. If they delayed those orders at the warehouse, there could be lawsuits. Leaving those books in Hachette warehouses until the order comes in wouldn’t be subject to legal ramifications.

      The simplest answer is usually the correct one. And knowing how long it takes publishers to ship books, the length of these delays makes perfect sense if it’s falling on Hachette to expedite the delivery.

      1. There’s no tweaking of the system required. They simply set the ‘keep in stock’ field to zero. There are thousands of items for sale on Amazon which are not kept in stock on a regular basis, simply because the demand for them is too low. This can be utilised to put pressure on suppliers who are not meeting Amazon’s terms.

        This is how hard it would be to do:

        UPDATE stock SET ‘keep_in_stock’ = 0 WHERE publisher=’hatchett’;

        1. And here is where a little knowledge leads to erroneous assumptions.

          Yes, you could use a simple SQL statement to reset the field ONE TIME. However, any modern Enterprise Resource System is going to have algorithms to reset that ‘keep in stock’ (or safety stock, as it’s more commonly called) based on demand. This takes into account sales history, as well as current orders. I’m sure there are other factors in the algorithms Amazon uses to manage its huge inventory.

          Okay, so run the SQL statement every day to keep the safety stock set to zero. This is not trivial. Against a database as large as Amazon’s, it’s not going to happen instantaneously. Meanwhile, simply running the statement will slow performance of the system, not something any retailer wants to happen.

          And changing the programming that calculates that keep-in-stock number? I doubt it. Every IT department I’ve ever worked in has a huge backlog. It takes time to change code, test it, and install it without disrupting current systems.

          It’s a much simpler explanation to conclude that Hachette is delaying the shipments. After all, this is a regular business condition, e.g., when a customer has bad credit and you hold shipments until they pay in advance.

        2. Exactly. This is what I think they did.

  12. It’s no surprise that Hachette flexes its massive media muscle to roll out a news campaign slanted against Amazon during negotiations (even NPR’s generally neutral coverage was surprisingly anti-Amazon). Most disturbing to me is that writers and authors allow themselves to be the ones to deliver that slanted message in personal, emotional appeals. Amazon and Hachette are both huge corporations, and business is business. They have no emotions.

  13. Hugh, you are making entirely too much sense. Here, have a nice cold glass of Kool-Aid and when you’re done drinking it, maybe you’ll be as confused as some of the other media reporting this problem. ;)

  14. SpringfieldMH Avatar

    I’d want to see substantiation of the delay for free non-prime that you that you mention. My own guess would be that free non-prime orders tend to go via slower cheaper shipping. And I can imagine that prime might get priority in picking.

    As far as FedEx and other shippers, as johnmonk indicates, delivery ahead of specified date/timeframe is not always desirable. Imagine trying to arrange shipment/delivery of some hot in-demand item, say a new J K Rowling Harry Potter book, which is quarantined/embargoed for availability on a given date. Clog/overload the system (and pay dearly for the privilege) and ship all copies simultaneously, if even physically possible… or spread them out over a more reasonable/affordable span of time, have them accumulate at the shipper’s destination warehouses, then get delivered on the release date? It makes sense that sellers want and shippers offer a variety of timeframes, costs and degree/specificity of control.

    1. SpringfieldMH Avatar

      That was in reply to joshua. Sorry, lag between entering and hitting submit.

  15. Favorite authors should not have to fall into the position of public relations/defense for Amazon. It is a two headed coin. Amazon is doing what they are doing for business reasons, but Hatchette is experiencing it as financial pressure. The crux of the problem is Amazon’s PR on this particular matter- failure to explain what is going on.

    1. I’m not defending Amazon so much as defending wholesale pricing. And it’s as a reader, not a writer. If I was selfish, I’d pull for Hachette. Higher prices mean I keep selling a ton of books.

      I’m also pulling for Amazon for the sake of Hachette’s authors. Higher prices means less sales and less earnings for writers. Our data sets at shows this.

      I’m also pulling for Hachette’s future by rooting for Amazon. Hachette doesn’t know what’s good for itself. They are protecting their relationship with bookstores and their print business by pricing e-books where they won’t sell. Amazon’s price pressure has resulted in record profits for Hachette and other publishers. They just don’t understand the economics. Look at Neil Gaiman’s giveaway of AMERICAN GODS for evidence of this. The publisher could plainly see that print sales went up while the e-book was free, and then those same sales fell back to normal once the trial period was over. And they learned nothing from it. Someone needs to save these people from themselves.

      1. I understand. Tell me if I got this right – traditional publishers are siding with printers and bookstores, therefore they are in favor of higher prices for e-books which encourages physical book sales over e-books, but many authors are in favor of low price e-books because they can make more money. As well, many agents are encouraging authors to self-publish online because the marketing and word of mouth that can come from it is lucrative. Many self publish authors are publishing online to “court” agents who appreciate their built in audience already in place before presenting such author to a publisher. Yet, when self published authors favor e-books over physical book profit, they are discouraging the health of the physical book market, and, therefore, disrespecting traditional publishers and their financial interests. So, it’s a circular conundrum, correct?

        Also, the description “hybrid author” is an unfortunate term to spring out of all of this, as it’s haughty and doesn’t really mean anything. Except to be indicative of the circular reference, above.

        On the topic of self publishing, I don’t really consider authors who “self publish” by putting their book on Kindle, as actually self published authors because the marketing and manpower produced by Amazon and Smashwords platforms is quite a lot of help – the self published author won’t do very well without them.

        To me, Amazon is just another form of publishing. With Amazon’s new publishing line, do authors own all of their rights, like with Kindle? What is the real difference between putting your books on Kindle and being published by Amazon’s publishing line?

        Hugh, some of the posters on your blog have said that Amazon calls royalties “royalties” but they really aren’t royalties. Is this true? If not, skip this part of my post. If true, can you sometime get together with your friends at Amazon over drinks and with a wink/nudge encourage them to change the word “royalty” to “earnings” or a more accurate word? Writers want words to mean what they mean. Amazon won’t respond to me, if I just asked them to do this with an email. Thanks.

        1. WoW! You really don’t understand anything about what’s happening in the publishing world do you? All you’re doing is READING what publishers, authors, amazon and “publishing experts” and other commentators are saying about each other, e-books and physical books, self-publishing, etc. But you’re not looking at what they’re actually doing. You’re not even trying to grasp the economics of it.

          It is a reality today that authors are acting more as entrepreneurs and less as workers/employees of big publishing houses. Because they figured out how to sell their work on their own. That’s not a bad thing is it? Self-publishing authors are the decision makers of their own work. They make the decision to publish or not and that’s what counts. Unlike traditionally published authors, they refuse to hand over this primary decision making power and freedom to some big publishing house who might just throw their work in the bin without a second glance. In other words, self-publishing authors are the new players in a world where business was controlled by a strong oligopoly who held artificial barriers for new entrants. These new players are doing quite well by exploring new avenues for selling books, by doing things differently than what big publishing houses would do. And as a result the entire industry is growing. The overall industry growth is only to be expected because increased competition can only lead to increased welfare for both sides of the market (consumers and producers of books).

          1. Chris Mercier Avatar

            ^Agreed! Amazon is a digital marketplace that happens to “print” books. A good physical example would be Shakespeare & Co. in 1920s Paris – they would publish, print, and sell books by authors like Pound, Joyce, Hemingway among others.

            The major publishers, on the other hand, wish only to pick and choose their buddies to publish. Heck, if they had their way, there would only be Random House or Hachette, et al., bookstores. They’d get rid of B&N if they could.

            And if they get rid of Amazon, B&N’s next.

          2. I actually think she spelled out the challenge on what is going in the industry, accurately. I am a “hybrid” author, so I know what I am talking about. It is a term I am not thrilled with, either. The problem with the word “hybrid” is that it usually refers to a car….an object. When you say an author is a “hybrid author” it’s like saying they are a “hybrid person”, so the word is directed to a human being. I think saying “I engage in hybrid publishing” is a more apt use of the term. I wonder how other authors feel about the phrase? I like the phrase “multi-platform publishing.” It’s more direct and not as self important sounding as “I am a hybrid author.”

      2. Higher prices would mean you wouldn’t be selling books for very long in this economy. That’s part of the reason why Hatchette is hurting authors far more than Amazon ever could.

  16. I am a Macmillan author who still remembers when Amazon pulled all the buy buttons off Macmillan books a few years ago. It hurt authors and it felt like Amazon threw us under the bus.

    If, as you say in other posts, Amazon is so good at what they do managing physical book distribution, I don’t believe that they are incapable of delaying just Hachette books.

    I wouldn’t read anything into the publisher’s refusal to give Michael Sullivan the shipping slip. You try to use it as proof that they are doing something wrong, but my guess is that it’s simpler than that: publishers hate (hatey hate hate hate!) giving authors information, especially information they don’t usually get.

    I have no love for the big publishers. Over the years, my royalty statements have gotten less and less specific. Oh, that error I found last year–the report now shows the data in a way that it would never be apparent. How convenient for them. That has happened over and over again.

    In general, they treat most of their authors horribly–like a nuisance–and deserve all the pain they’re suffering. They don’t understand the digital world, and will continue to be thrashed by companies that do. But Amazon is no angel. They’re a predatory monopoly that has no qualms about mistreating authors the instant it serves their purposes. Case in point: the recent huge royalty cut on audiobooks.

    A year or two ago, Amazon also cut off affiliates without warning in states that wanted Amazon to pay sales tax, truly harming people who had built a business on Amazon affiliate programs.

    Amazon loves to throw its weight around and doesn’t think twice about hurting individuals who get caught in the crossfire.

    I only wish the big publishers were getting thrashed by a company that wasn’t so evil.

    1. I was reading that when that happened with Macmillan, Amazon offered the same fund to help authors affected, to fund it with 50%, and the publisher was supposed to pay the other 50%. Did you get any compensation?

    2. @ Larry: You are absolutely correct. Amazon has a complete monopoly and in no way competes with the likes of Waterstones, WH Smith, Barnes & Noble and its subsidiaries, and Books-A-Million and its subsidiaries. And that’s just in the book retail market. /s

  17. I do t think the exact mechanism matters, whether Amazon is delaying shipments from its warehouse or reducing orders to Hachette. Either way, Amazon knew what the effect would be and intended it to happen.
    I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the preorder buttons were removed a day or two after the story broke in the news. Having the dispute out in the open probably made Amazon feel freer to take more obvious steps like refusing preorders.

    1. Amazon is to some extent being vilified for its own competence. Immediate delivery and preorders were UNKNOWN in publishing before Amazon. Hachette certainly can’t manage that on their own, not because of Amazon, because publishers are generally pretty bad at their own business.

      Amazon pioneered all these things which publishers and authors have come to rely on. But these have been provided for free to publishers. Maybe Amazon is playing hardball– but everyone should remember that Amazon invented these, and provides them to the benefit of publishers. They do have every right to use this as a bargaining chip, because it wouldn’t exist if not for Amazon.

      Hardball. Publishers are used to being the biggest frog in the pond– squatting on authors, booksellers, readers. Now there are bigger players, Apple and Amazon to start with. And of course the publishers react cravenly. They haven’t actually ever had to compete on a level playing field.

  18. I think its hilarious and ridiculous how many people are calling Hachette or Amazon “evil” or thinking they are withholding copies just for spite. I worked in auto insurance for many years and for all those people that think insurance companies do whatever they can to not pay you, that’s a load of crap. It’s a hell of a lot easier to just pay it and move forward with it then to try and hold it back and prolong the process. Makes zero business sense and as we can all see, Amazon is no amateur when it comes to doing business. We have no idea what their contracts and agreements entail and I agree with Hugh, it’s most likely a legal thing they are trying to circumvent.

  19. […] stock Hachette’s books (assuming this is even what’s happening; common sense suggests the truth is otherwise), why is it OK for Barnes & Noble and various independent booksellers (which […]

  20. […] Hugh explains why, just why, it’s taking 2+ weeks to get a Hachette book from Amazon during th… […]

  21. You know, I see a lot of people talking about how this makes readers “suffer”. But lets be honest about this. Shipping delays? Not being able to pre-order? Books not in stock? Readers are used to all of that. It’s business as usual for a brick and mortar store. Readers aren’t “suffering” just because they can’t get a particular Hachette book RIGHT NOW.

    If anything, if they even know and care about the situation (and they probably don’t) this is likely to remind them of how awful shopping for books used to be when you had to go to an actual store to do it and the book probably wasn’t there unless it was a new book from a bestseller and if it wasn’t there you might be able to order it but it would take weeks to come and then you would likely still have to go back to the store to get it.

    And preorders? My local Barnes and Noble only did those for the really BIG books and there really wasn’t any point. I remember preordering Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. You had to go to the service desk to pick it up, where there was a ridiculous line, but there was a table of copies right in front of the store. So I skipped the service desk and just grabbed a copy from the table.

    If anything, all of this is reminding people how GREAT shopping at Amazon is. And for those who don’t know and don’t care about these negotiations (most people) they probably just shrug their shoulders and assume that the shipping delays are coming from the producer of the goods, not Amazon. At least, that’s what I always think whenever I see an item that is “temporarily out of stock” or “ships in 2-4 weeks” or something like that. Amazon has never failed to get me anything I ordered fast and free. So why would I assume they are delaying things? A reasonable person would assume there’s a delay between the producer of the product and Amazon. And even then, I just shrug and look for something else.

  22. […] stock Hachette’s books (assuming this is even what’s happening; common sense suggests the truth is otherwise), why is it OK for Barnes & Noble and various independent booksellers (which are are actually […]

  23. […] stock Hachette’s books (assuming this is even what’s happening; common sense suggests the truth is otherwise), why is it OK for Barnes & Noble and various independent booksellers (which […]

  24. Barry Eisier’s wrote an article in The Guardian about this. If there ever was a sentence that hit home with me, it’s his sentence here:

    “Because indie authors are the mom-and-pop shops of publishing.”

    That is a gorgeous, gorgeous, beautiful sentiment, that I am going to take away with me, through all of this debacle/articles on the matter. That is a sentence to keep above the writing table.

  25. Really, Hugh, you do not know what you’re talking about. Hachette shipping delays? All of these books are at Ingram and B&T. Amazon could get them there if they wanted too, just like they get thousands of other books.

    1. Interesting, Dean. But Ingram and B&T are not benevolent entities. Even I, as a self-published author, has to pay a yearly fee if I want my Lightning Source books to be distributed by Ingram. For millions of books distributed, we can guess this fee would grow.

      So, perhaps Hachette, which works closely with Ingram for other retailers, does not want Ingram to distribute its books on Amazon? Because it would be costlier? Or less efficient? Or less transparent for them? It’s difficult to know if you are not really an insider of Amazon, Hachette or Ingram.

      1. Also worth mentioning: readers have plenty of choices to buy a new Hachette book. Look at this “new” tab, for instance:

        So, if Hachette was complaining, it was complaining directly against Amazon as a seller, not against third-party sellers on its site. By the way, I have demonstrated on my blog that some of these third-party seller of new books are in fact partners of Ingram (to test my point, just suppress extended distribution for your books on Createspace, and you’ll see these third-party seller disappear). Creastespace has a deal with Ingram for extended distribution, so I think that validates my point.

        So, sorry Dean, I think your point does not stand.

    2. Not with orders direct from the publisher. I used to place these orders. And I would wait 1-2 weeks before the books arrived.

      We could also order through Ingram or B&T, but the discount wasn’t the same. Ingram and B&T want their slice of the pie.

      I’m sorry, but I do know what I’m talking about. I’ve had direct experience with this.

  26. I enjoyed reading this today. Good analysis and I wouldn’t be surprised that this is what’s going on.

  27. From one Floridian to another, Hugh, I applaud Amazon! The book giant is just looking after the interest of the buying public. The United States Justice Department fined the big publishers already a few years ago when they were fixing prices and trying to cheat the readers by overcharging for ebooks, which cost almost nothing to publish. The big publishers were supposed to pay back tens of millions of dollars to their readers for cheating them.

    The Consumer Federation of America at the time of the Justice Department investigation estimated that the big book publishers and Apple overcharged readers around 200 million dollars for books. Part of that anti-trust investigation by the Justice Department caused 16 states, led by Connecticut and Texas, to file their own suits against Apple, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. The states later reported they reached tentative settlement agreements with HarperCollins and HACHETTE. Those two publishers agreed to provide more than $51 million in restitution to e-book buyers.

    Now Hachette has gotten greedy again and wants to overcharge their readers. Maybe if they paid a bigger percentage to their authors, as Amazon does to the indies, then Stephen Colbert would not have to throw dirty fingers and cry that he is loosing some of the millions he expects to make from Amazon sales.

    The Hatchett Group is claiming they are only trying to cover their upfront costs. I am an indie author and once I have a paperback, to publish the ebook, which I do myself, takes about 1 day to convert it to digital and proof it. So much for upfront costs.

  28. David Cantrell Avatar

    A minor point re pre-orders – they wouldn’t have to refund anyone if they lost their relationship with the publisher/manufacturer, because Amazon don’t bill their customers for pre-orders until just before the item ships.

    1. Amazon would still have to disappoint readers by saying, “The book you pre-ordered is no longer available from this site.” They don’t want to have to do that, hence their redirecting readers to other sites for orders they can’t fulfil.

  29. Mr. Howey,

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I’m recently new to your work, but am enjoying it very much. I hope you don’t mind me asking a few questions?

    Aside from the obvious lack of a physical printed book, is there much else different in publishing an ebook? Do the publishers format it or the writer? Does the book go through the same review process? Is there a breakdown of the costs involved that shows the difference in traditional publishing and ebooks?

    How did Amazon arrive at it’s $9.99 price? Did they consult with authors? Publishers? Was this a random choice? Is what they did any kind of price fixing?

    I’m currently in college and one of my current classes is on publishing. This subject with Amazon and publishers just came up, so this is very relevant to what we’re being taught.

    In closing, I’d like to leave you with a link to an article on Amazon. It seems to indicate that doing things that don’t make a lot of sense seems to be how they do business. Which is what prompted some of my questions.

    Thank you for your time and information.


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