Simon & Schuster negotiating with Amazon amid Hachette feud

The publisher is reportedly in talks with the e-commerce giant, sparking speculation as to what the negotiations are about.

Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
CBS President and CEO Les Moonves speaks at the Clive Davis Pre-GRAMMY Gala on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. CBS is the parent corportation of Simon & Schuster. Moonves mentioned that the publisher was in negotiations with Amazon.

Simon & Schuster, one of the world's largest English-language publishers, is in negotiations with Amazon, according to The Wall Street Journal.

While the nature of the negotiations with Simon & Schuster is unknown, the mention of talks between the two companies has prompted a great deal of speculation among those with interests in the book industry.

Many are wondering what these negotiations mean and whether they will devolve into the kind of bitter feud that currently exists between the e-commerce giant and the publisher Hachette.

Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS, Simon & Schuster’s parent corporation, mentioned almost offhandedly during the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado, that the publisher was in talks with Amazon. The mention can be seen in a video interview which can be found on Fortune's website.

The mention is not extensive. In fact, the CEO didn't say much on the subject at all.

"We are negotiating with Amazon as we speak, so I don’t want to get into too much detail about it," said Moonves.

The secrecy is understandable, but the brief mention of the talks has been more than enough to prompt questions about whether these negotiations will take any of the undesirable turns the Hachette-Amazon negotiations have taken.

Hachette, another large publisher, entered into talks with Amazon in January, according to Reuters. Since then, negotiations have gone consistently downhill, with Amazon delaying deliveries of Hachette book titles, including big-selling books such as "The Silkworm," written by J.K. Rowling (under the pen name Robert Galbraith). The dispute reportedly started over a controversy involving e-book prices, and the two sides seem to have become entrenched against each other since.

There is nothing to indicate that the Simon & Schuster talks are going in a similar direction. A search of a few top Simon & Schuster titles on Amazon yields no indications of shipping delays or anything out of the ordinary.

Moonves said in the Fortune interview, "Obviously Amazon has a very definitive point of view on what should be done in the publishing business. Those in the publishing world are not totally copacetic [pleased] with it because they do control ... a high percentage of those books."

"It's going to be a very interesting thing to watch as we go down the future," he added.

There have been no hints from either Simon & Schuster or Amazon as to what the negotiations are about. Theories have ranged from an e-book pricing dispute like Hachette's to speculation that Amazon may even want to buy the publisher, according to the blog GoodeReader.

While such theories are so much guesswork at this point, many people and organizations will be watching closely for hints as to what's going on between these book industry powerhouses.

Weston Williams is a Monitor contributor.

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