Burying The Hachette? Amazon Climbs Down


A half-year publishing industry stand-off is finally at an end: Amazon and Hachette are now the best of friends again

Amazon has been delaying delivery of the publisher Hachette's books, preventing pre-orders and removing discounts, amid a bitter fight over ebook terms
But now the two sides - who made their battle very public - have struck a deal
Both companies have spun their climbdown as a victory. Hachette will get to set its own prices for ebooks, but the terms of the agreement encourage Hachette to discount books for readers - a win for Amazon
The dispute was heated. Amazon even ended up misquoting George Orwell, perhaps proving publisher Hachette's argument that the business of books is best left to publishers, not technology companies.
On the publishing side, literary agent Andrew Wylie compared Amazon to the Islamic State, showing a fine appreciation for the literary trick of hyperbole
But at the heart of the dispute was a deeper ideological issue: in a world of self-publishing titles directly to a Kindle reader, do we need traditional publishers any more
Amazon seems to think we do, at least for now. The job of finding authors, paying them advances, editing and marketing them is vital
And the big hits that publishers put out can subsidise those less commercial, but worthwhile books
So is the argument over? As Douglas Preston, a Hachette author and vociferous critic of Amazon, said: "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."
It's not if, but when. This is a ceasefire in a much longer cultural war

Tom Cheshire

Technology Correspondent

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