Digital Story Updates: Amazon, Hachette, Diamond, Graphicly

I wrote about Amazon choosing not to support a vendor in its negotiations with publisher Hachette earlier this week. Now, Amazon has finally made a public statement, acknowledging that they are “buying less (print) inventory… than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles”. (Interestingly, this is in their Kindle forum, perhaps acknowledging that this dispute is mostly about ebook pricing.)

Instead, customers can order new titles when their publication date arrives. For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order, at which time we order the inventory from Hachette — availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Hachette to fill the orders we place. Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to the customer promptly. These changes are related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon.

Don’t expect a resolution any time soon, either:

At Amazon, we do business with more than 70,000 suppliers, including thousands of publishers. One of our important suppliers is Hachette, which is part of a $10 billion media conglomerate. Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually-acceptable agreement on terms. Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives. Nevertheless, the two companies have so far failed to find a solution. Even more unfortunate, though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.

They’re taking the “it’s just capitalism” approach as well:

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.

Remember, they’re willing to lose you as a customer if they’re not meeting your needs:

If you do need one of the affected titles quickly, we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors.

Hachette, in response, demanded “terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them.” So, no discount, then.

Meanwhile, over in digital comic land, one of the few former competitors to ComiXology shut down: Graphicly’s key employees went to self-publishing platform Blurb (a name aptly chosen for that field) and the digital comic company will be no more. They’d stopped working with comics two years ago. Rumor has it that a number of comic publishers will get stiffed on money due, as typically happens when companies go out of business.

In other news, after shutting down Diamond Digital, the monopoly print comic distributor has announced a new deal to offer “conversion and global digital distribution for print comics” via a vendor named Trajectory and a facility in China. Publishers who pay a dollar a page for production will get their PDFs converted for various digital retail channels and access to a “global eBook distribution network”.

6 Responses to “Digital Story Updates: Amazon, Hachette, Diamond, Graphicly”

  1. Ralf Haring Says:

    One tidbit I read that was new to me was why the Amazon/Hachette hardball was happening now. It’s not just random. As part of the settlement for the big five publishers’ collusion in the Apple price-fixing lawsuit, they were ordered to renegotiate their deals staggered one after the other. Hachette is just the first on the list. The other four will follow and are no doubt observing this situation closely.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Good point. Others have pointed out that Hachette is also the smallest of the big five, so Amazon may think it’s easiest to start with them — more susceptible to pressure, perhaps.

  3. Ralf Haring Says:

    You mean smallest on their own? They are part of the French multinational Lagardère Group. Three of the others are subsidiaries of News Corp, CBS, and Bertelsman while Macmillan seems like the odd man out in that regard. Amazon is a tech giant, but I have a difficult time buying the publishers’ narrative of being weakling underdogs. The judge defined the order, with six months between each.

  4. Johanna Says:

    I mean smallest in the US. Yes, like so many other media companies, they’re part of a huge conglomerate overall.

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