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Here We Go Again: Amazon v. HarperCollins?

Amazon has reportedly threatened HarperCollins that if the publisher doesn’t sign a new distribution agreement “very soon,” then “no print or digital HarperCollins books will be available on Amazon,” according to a Business Insider report.

An Amazon rep told Business Insider that it offered HarperCollins the same contract signed by Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan, but that Harper won’t agree to the terms of the new deal. The deal the others signed resulted in a form of pricing Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch has termed “agency lite,” where the publishers can set their own prices for books sold on Amazon, but incentives to keep prices low have been worked into the agreements. HarperCollins hasn’t commented on the matter.

We’ve seen this movie before. Amazon’s threat summons memories of the e-tailer’s six-month suppression of Hachette author’s books while the two corporations stared each other down in 2014, as well as its 2010 removal of “buy buttons” from Macmillan titles during a pricing dispute.

HarperCollins, for its part, has seen the writing on the wall, and it appears to have prepared accordingly. Jeremy Greenfield detailed Harper’s strategy in Forbes last August. It was the first of the Big Five to join subscription services Oyster and Scribd; it launched its own direct publisher-to-reader sales platform; and in 2012 it began a series of acquisitions resulting in dominant Christian and romance publishing divisions. This has paid off. Partly as a result of this strategy, “of the five large trade publishers they likely do a smaller percentage of business at Amazon than their peers,” according to Publishers Lunch.

We’ll keep you posted as the situation develops, but in the meantime we’re hoping this impasse is resolved without any collateral damage to HarperCollins authors.