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Amazon Speaks on Hachette Book Battle: Everyone Negotiates Like We Do (Wink)

Apology not included.

Asa Mathat
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Amazon finally issued a public response to the festering battle with book publisher Hachette, claiming that the negotiating tactics it has pursued in contract talks are commonplace, justified and aimed at giving better long-term value to Amazon shoppers.

In a post in the Kindle forum, Amazon admitted that it is “currently buying less [print] inventory and ‘safety stock’ on titles from … Hachette,” and “no longer taking pre-orders.”

“These changes are related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon,” the post said.

And though it said that “Hachette has operated in good faith” — whatever that means — Amazon does not see a resolution coming soon. So it recommends that customers looking for Hachette titles should shop at competitors or third-party sellers on Amazon.

The gist of the post focused on Amazon defending its tactics.

“Suppliers get to decide the terms under which they are willing to sell to a retailer,” the post said. “It’s reciprocally the right of a retailer to determine whether the terms on offer are acceptable and to stock items accordingly. A retailer can feature a supplier’s items in its advertising and promotional circulars, ‘stack it high’ in the front of the store, keep small quantities on hand in the back aisle, or not carry the item at all, and bookstores and other retailers do these every day. When we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers. Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term.”

Here’s where you might expect a company to apologize to its customers for the inconvenience. But that’s not necessarily the Amazon way. The closest it gets to a “we’re sorry” is a passing mention of regretting “the inconvenience.”

Nonetheless, Amazon also touches on the other side of this equation — how it impacts the authors whose work is being held hostage — and said it is trying to limit the negative effect.

“We’ve offered to Hachette to fund 50% of an author pool — to be allocated by Hachette — to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties, if Hachette funds the other 50%,” the company said. “We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago. We hope Hachette takes us up on it.”

In summary, if you were expecting Amazon to express significant remorse or concede that it’s at fault, you’ll be disappointed. But if you follow Amazon at all, you knew not to expect that anyway.

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