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Amazon Deal With Simon & Schuster Raises Questions For Other Publishers


Publishing giant Simon and Schuster has found a way to compromise with Amazon. The companies have reached an agreement on the price of e-books -an issue that remains at the heart of a nasty dispute between Amazon and Hachette, another major publishing house. NPR's Lynn Neary has more.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: The news of the breakthrough came in a letter from Simon and Schuster's CEO Carolyn Reidy to the company's authors and agents. She called the agreement with Amazon economically advantageous for both Simon and Schuster and its authors. She said the publisher, not Amazon, would set the price of e-books although there would be, in her words, some limited exceptions. Reidy told the authors that their share of income from e-books would be maintained and reassured them that their books would be available for sale on Amazon throughout the crucial holiday season - a clear bid to offset authors' concerns about retaliatory moves Amazon, led by its CEO Jeff Bezos, has taken against Hachette's authors.

DOUGLAS PRESTON: Well, I think it sounds great. I'm really relieved for Simon and Schuster's authors. They no longer have the sword of Damocles or, should I say, the sword of Bezos hanging over their heads.

NEARY: Writer Douglas Preston, whose work is published by Hachette, founded a group called Authors United to protest Amazon's tactics in its dispute with his publisher. Amazon has upped the price, slowed down delivery and generally made it more difficult to buy some Hachette books on its site. Preston said it is not clear that Amazon offered Simon and Schuster the same terms it offered Hachette, but news of this agreement does raise some questions.

PRESTON: If Simon and Schuster is happy with this agreement, and if Hachette's being offered the same terms, I would, you know, be wanting Hachette to strive to solve this problem as soon as possible. But it doesn't solve the problem of Amazon. Every time they get into a negotiating problem with a publisher, are they going to target the authors? I mean, it's just unacceptable.

NEARY: Preston says as long as Amazon continues to use authors as pawns in its dealings with Hachette, his group will pressure the retailer to back off its tactics. He said he has heard from a number of Simon and Schuster authors who say they will still support Authors United. Hachette has declined comment on the agreement between Amazon and Simon and Schuster. Amazon issued a brief statement saying it's very happy with the agreement and says it, quote, "creates a financial incentive for Simon and Schuster to deliver lower prices for readers. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lynn Neary is an NPR arts correspondent covering books and publishing.