The biggest cold war in publishing history came to an apparent end Thursday as Amazon.com Inc. and Hachette Book Group announced they reached a deal in their monthslong dispute over e-book prices. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but both sides said they were satisfied with the agreement. The deal is said to be similar to one reached last month by Amazon and Simon & Schuster.
Under the terms of the multiyear deal, Hachette will set e-book prices but will also “benefit from better terms” when it offers lower prices.
Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch called the agreement “great news” for writers. “The new agreement will benefit Hachette authors for years to come,” Pietsch said in a statement. “It gives Hachette enormous marketing capability with one of our most important bookselling partners.”
The online retail giant had been in a standoff with the French-owned book publisher for several months in an increasingly public scuffle that had nearly everyone in the publishing industry -- from famous authors to self-published writers -- choosing sides. As negotiations fell apart, Amazon began to discourage customers from buying Hachette titles by pulling pre-orders and delaying shipments of certain works.
In September, hundreds of authors, collectively calling themselves Authors United, signed an open letter to Amazon’s board of directors slamming the company’s hardline tactics. Douglas Preston, the best-selling Hachette author who helped spearhead that effort, said Thursday he was relieved to learn the two sides had reached a deal.
“I can only hope that, if disagreements arise in the future between Amazon and publishers, Amazon will never again seek to gain leverage by sanctioning books and hurting authors,” Preston said in an email.
The New York Times reported that at least some Hachette titles -- including popular books by Malcolm Gladwell -- were still indicating shipping delays as of Thursday morning.
Under the new agreement, Hachette will have responsibility for setting consumer prices of its e-books, and will also benefit from better terms when it delivers lower prices for readers. The new terms are set to take effect in 2015.