Sunday - Sep 24, 2017

HarperCollins may be looking to bypass Amazon

HarperCollins may be looking to bypass Amazon

In a move interpreted by leading forces in the industry as an unprecedented first step by key players in traditional and digital publishing to market directly to the public, market leader HarperCollins fired the first salvo with the recent relaunch of their website, offering their most recent publications to the general public, written by some of the World’s top writers.

With the market having been totally dominated by direct sellers Amazon for the last few years, the relaunch of the News Corp-owned publisher’s US website HarperCollins is being seen the latest move by publishers to regain ground, especially as it coincides with a renewed outbreak in the much publicised dispute between Amazon and with Hachette Book Group, relating to price-fixing.

The HarperCollins’ direct marketing initiative will place the company in direct competition with one of its leading clients, Amazon, estimated to be in control of around 60 per cent of all ebook sales, as well as between 30 to 50 per cent printed book sales in the US alone.

With Amazon’s well-publicised bulk buying policy forcing the publishers to accept a pricing structure that is often described as being so low as to be uneconomical, the industry has been seen to be attempting for a number of years to find a way to approach the buying public directly.

U.S.-based HarperCollins, part of the “Big Six” English-language publishing companies, alongside Hachette, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, Penguin Putnam, Random House, and Simon & Schuster have long been the principal innovators in dealing with the public through brand-specific websites, although activities represent a very minor part of the publishers’ businesses.

Hopes are that the new HarperCollins site, initially launching in the US with plans to expand their print marketing service to UK, Canada and Australia within the coming year, while ebooks will be already marketed directly to the public anywhere in the world as long as marketing rights are held by the company.

According to a spokesperson for HarperCollins, the new arrangement will mean that authors will be able to earn higher royalties, as the company will no longer be obliged to pay a share of income to a middleman retailer such as Amazon. The risk that HarperCollins may be taking is that it will take a long time to achieve the marking penetration that Amazon have achieved since it first began operating online in 1995.

In recent months, cracks began to show among the publishing industry and Amazon, who have been particularly engaged in an ongoing dispute with French publisher Hachette relating to ebook pricing and revenue share, that has seen Amazon taking an aggressive stance by charging more for Hachette books, and other forms of “selective retaliation”, a description that came from a large number of the world’s most popular and bestselling authors as part of a campaign spearheaded by leading American author Douglas Preston. In response to Douglas Preston’s campaign, Amazon has reportedly issued a direct appeal to Hachette authors, in which they suggest that both the retailer and the publisher pass on the profits on ebook sales to authors while at the same time renegotiating their contract with a specific publisher, an initiative that Amazon explains would “take authors out of the middle” of the dispute.

According to an industry onlooker the reason why Amazon is becoming increasingly aggressive with publishers is that marketing e-books and printed media are gradually becoming a smaller part of its online marketing enterprise which generated $750 million in 2013.

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