Earlier this month, Amazon visitors noted that estimated shipping times for some books released by Hachette had lengthened, with Amazon stating that some could take as long as four to five weeks to reach customers. But Hachette said the problem wasn’t due to any lack of supply from them – publisher spokesperson Sophie Cottrell told the New York Times that “we are satisfying all Amazon’s orders promptly” and that shipments were taking longer “for reasons of their own.”
Then more observant Amazon customers saw that upcoming Hachette titles such as “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith were no longer available for pre-order and that the only option customers had was to sign up for an e-mail alert when the book became available.
Now, in the unlikely setting of a Kindle customer discussion forum on the Amazon website, the company has released a statement.
In a post attributed to “The Amazon books team,” the company stated that “we are currently buying less (print) inventory and "safety stock" on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future. 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.”
The company said of negotiations between Amazon and Hachette that “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.”
Amazon noted that “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.”
What to do if you really need a Hachette title? Amazon suggests going elsewhere.
“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,” the company wrote.
Since the brouhaha is hurting writers of Hachette titles, Amazon wrote that it is working to mitigate that.
“We've offered to Hachette to fund 50% of an author pool – to be allocated by Hachette – to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties, if Hachette funds the other 50%,” Amazon wrote. “We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago. We hope Hachette takes us up on it.”
Amazon concluded by writing that the media coverage of this dispute has “expressed a relatively narrow point of view” and pointed Amazon customers to a blog post by Martin Shepard, founder of the Permanent Press, which supported Amazon.