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Amazon And Hachette Reach A Deal On E-Book Pricing

Visitors walk through the Hachette Book Group's exhibition in May at BookExpo America, the annual industry convention in New York.
Mark Lennihan
Visitors walk through the Hachette Book Group's exhibition in May at BookExpo America, the annual industry convention in New York.

Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET.

In a deal that ends a months-long — and much-publicized — stalemate, Amazon and Hachette Book Group have reached what the companies say is a multiyear agreement on the pricing of e-books and print books. Under the new terms, which will take effect early next year, Hachette will set the consumer prices of its e-books — a key sticking point in the often heated negotiations.

Further details of the agreement weren't immediately available.

"This is great news for writers," Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch said in a statement. "The new agreement will benefit Hachette authors for years to come. It gives Hachette enormous marketing capability with one of our most important bookselling partners."

The sentiment was echoed in a statement released by Amazon executive David Naggar: "We are pleased with this new agreement as it includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices, which we believe will be a great win for readers and authors alike."

Both companies had been seeking a deal since Hachette's contract with Amazon expired in March, only to be briefly extended by the online retailer into April. The stymied negotiations drew protests from authors on both sides of the dispute, including some who called for Justice Department scrutiny of Amazon's business practices.

Among the most vocal critics during the dispute was Hachette author Douglas Preston, who in June helped organize the Authors United group in opposition to Amazon. As a result, more than 900 authors signed a letter of protest printed as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times.

"The word 'worried' is an understatement," Preston told NPR's Neda Ulaby in September, explaining his motivations. "I mean, there are 2,500 authors whose books are being sanctioned, and they are in a panic."

Not every author had been on Hachette's side of the dispute, though. As NPR's Lynn Neary noted in July, several self-published authors defended Amazon with a letter of their own — a petition published on Change.org.

Thursday's deal appears to put an end to that long-simmering dispute. For Amazon, though, it marks the second pricing deal with a "Big Five" publisher in less than a month; it also inked an agreement with Simon & Schuster in October. In the coming months, Amazon is expected to negotiate new deals with HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Macmillan.

The two companies will now resume trading as usual, and Amazon promises that "Hachette books will be prominently featured in promotions."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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