Amazon, Hachette bury the hatchet over e-book sales

Hachette Book Group and said yesterday they had settled a multi-year agreement for e-book and print book sales after months of bitter fighting that pitted writers and publishers against the world's largest online retail store, Reuters reported.(See: Top-selling author James Patterson accuses Amazon of 'book monopoly)

Thriller writer, Douglas Preston, published by Hachette, formed Authors United, a group having 1,500 members, including some of the most prominent and popular writers in the country.

Hachette, a unit of France's Lagardere SCA and the fourth-largest US book publisher, said the new e-book terms would come into effect early next year and that it would have the responsibility for setting consumer prices.

Amazon, which dropped several of Hachette's books from its inventory, would immediately resume sale of Hachette's catalogue. The books would be prominently featured in promotions.

Which party controlled the right to set prices for e-books and what cut Amazon would take were the issues at the centre of the dispute.

The dispute started earlier this year, as Amazon and Hachette started negotiating a new contract.

While the negotiations were on, Amazon delayed deliveries and removed pre-order options for several of Hachette's titles, including The Silkworm, by Harry Potter author JK Rowling, writing under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Amazon emerged as the undisputed main outlet for consumers buying e-books, and according to Lagardere, Amazon accounted for about 60 per cent of Hachette's digital sales.

The resolution officially ends a publishing dispute that turned into a major cultural and business row.

Though neither side offered details of the deal, both said they were happy with the terms. Hachette, the fourth-largest publisher, that won the right to set the prices for its e-books, had been a major bone of contention in the fight.

''This is great news for writers,'' Michael Pietsch, Hachette's chief executive, said in a statement. According to an Amazon executive, David Naggar, Amazon was ''pleased with this new agreement as it includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.''

The agreement broadly comes on the lines of a deal Amazon recently struck with Simon & Schuster, which the publisher said it was pleased with (Amazon and Simon and Schuster enter multi-year deal for print and digital books sale).

According to Amazon, what started off as a  routine negotiating dispute between supplier and retailer snowballed into a conflict.

Preston said he was relieved that Amazon and Hachette had reached an agreement, but added that "if anyone thought this was over, they were deluding themselves."

He said, "Amazon coveted market share the way Napoleon coveted territory."