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UK book publishers allegedly fighting Amazon over new contract terms

updated 08:42 am EDT, Fri June 27, 2014

Amazon seeks right to print out-of-stock books in negotiations with publishers

Amazon is allegedly battling publishers in the United Kingdom for more favorable contract terms, including the right to print out-of-stock books. The retailer wants to be able to print more copies of works if publishers are unable to provide sufficient stock, with the proposal one of a number said to be under negotiation between Amazon and independent publishers.

The Bookseller claims some UK publishers have been placed under "heavy pressure" to accept the demands. Among the new terms include adjustments to ebook and physical book pricing so they have parity, and a ceiling on the digital list price of ebooks in preparation for an imposed 20-percent VAT rate in 2015. Publishers will also be restricted from selling books at a lower cost than Amazon, including through their own websites, and that whenever a publisher makes a new agreement with another business, Amazon's terms must be updated to match. The European Union's Directorate General for Competition is said to be examining this last item, typically called Most Favored Nation (MFN) clauses.

The main problem for publishers is the printing clause. Publishers must guarantee they will have stocks of books available, with Amazon able to use its own print-on-demand facilities to provide customers with copies if none are available. Publishers are apparently worried this clause will allow Amazon to take over their stock control, an important part of the publishing business.

Representatives speaking to BBC News claim Amazon has become "increasingly ruthless" in negotiations, with another accusing the retailer of "bulling" it's business partners. Amazon is said to prefer verbal agreements with publishers instead of documenting negotiations, though in this case it is actively sending notes of these terms to publishers, possibly as a tactic to show it is being extremely serious about the terms.

The negotiations echo those of Hachette and Warner Bros. with the retailer. Amazon pulled pre-orders for movies and books from both companies in order to pressure both firms into agreeing with Amazon's payment terms, with Warner Bros. evidently agreeing to them shortly after. Sales of Hachette books continue to be disrupted.

by MacNN Staff



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