Amazon’s Standoff With Hachette Over E-Books Is Finally Over

The Amazon-Hachette battle is over, but it’s unclear who won.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The publishing war of the year is officially over, with Amazon and Hachette announcing that they’ve finally reached an agreement on e-book pricing. The bitter dispute had dragged on for months, with Amazon halting preorders and delaying shipping on many Hachette titles, and at one point even pulling George Orwell into the mess. As of Thursday morning, preorder buttons appeared to have been restored and Hachette titles were once again shipping in a timely manner.

At the moment, it’s unclear who came out ahead in this resolution. Both sides are keeping the details of the deal tightly under wraps, though according to the New York Times’ David Streitfeld “both pronounced themselves happy with the terms.” The agreement lets Hachette set prices for its e-books—a sticking point in the negotiations—but “includes specific financial incentives” for Hachette to keep those prices low, an Amazon executive told the Times. Amazon maintained throughout the dispute that e-books should be sold cheaply because they are highly price elastic. That’s econ-speak for saying that if their costs fell, customers would buy many more, making lower prices theoretically better for everyone.

The new e-book arrangement is supposed to take effect in early 2015. While the Amazon-Hachette feud is over for now, the war between the publishing industry and Jeff Bezos is not going away so easily. Authors United and the Authors Guild—two advocacy groups for authors—are urging the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for antitrust violations. “If anyone thinks this is over, they are deluding themselves,” Douglas Preston, one of Hachette’s top-selling authors and a outspoken critic of Amazon, told the Times. “Amazon covets market share the way Napoleon coveted territory.”

In related news: “Amazon buries the Hachette” is the most overused Twitter joke of the day.