One of the sanest comments I’ve seen on this dispute was recently left by David Gaughran on another story warning indies that Amazon is coming after them next. David’s points are too good to remain buried, so I’m linking to the comment here and publishing it in full below:
Hi Nate, I won’t go over the ground other commenters have, but I will say this: treat all the news reports with skepticism. The Guardian piece from Weds, is based on a piece from the Bookseller on Tues, which is entirely based on leaks from Hachette UK execs.
Even if the leaks are true (which is an unknown) they could be very selective. Here’s a couple of sample scenarios (and I could do about 10 of these, all plausible):
Hachette wants Agency. Amazon wants Wholesale. Hachette says OK to Wholesale, but wants some of those Agency percentages and terms (i.e. a 70/30 split, but Amazon to swallow all discounting). As this deal is even better for Hachette than Agency was (or Wholesale was before that), then Amazon says, OK, but then we have to charge you for all the stuff we give you for free: pre-order facilities, co-op, etc.
Hachette then leaks “Amazon is making us pay for all this stuff that was free like pre-orders. Whaaaaa!”
Hachette and Amazon both agree that Agency is dead, but differ on the Wholesale split and how much Amazon can discount. Amazon thinks it should be more like print because it has to swallow all discounting under Wholesale, so it offers a (picking a random number) 60/40 split instead of 70/30. This will actually work out better for Hachette because it’s getting a guaranteed 60% of list, and Amazon will discount heavily (and shift more units). But Hachette doesn’t want Amazon to have power over pricing and discounting, so negotiations aren’t going anywhere.
Hachette then leaks “Amazon wants to massively cut royalty rates. Whaaaa!”
The fact is we don’t know. And I don’t trust the Hachette leaks to be the whole story. At all. Let’s not forget the Macmillan scenario for 2010, when EVERYONE was sure Amazon was the bad guy, and then it turned out that Macmillan was part of an illegal conspiracy to fix the price of e-books.
The Big 6 mounted the same global media push then – Amazon is destroying the book business! – and everyone fell for it.
Let’s be a bit wiser this time, and resist what is quite obviously a very sophisticated PR campaign from the large publishers.
It’s amazing to me that Amazon is still hammered for removing the buy buttons on Macmillan books even after getting all the facts. It’s also amazing to me that Hachette authors are complaining about delivery speed and pre-orders when Amazon published authors aren’t allowed in bookstores AT ALL. The consensus seems to be that Amazon published authors are to blame for signing with those imprints. The hypocrisy here — and the cruelty of that hypocrisy — are astounding.