The Hachette Book Group won its public battle with Amazon on book prices. Sort of, at least. The two companies announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement that left pricing control in Hachette's hands, but allows Amazon to treat Hachette titles differently according to how low that pricing is.
The agreement caps almost a year of both behind-the-scene negotiations and public feuding between the two firms. In the spring of 2014, Amazon went so far as to make it far harder and much more expensive for its customers to buy Hachette titles.
The fight sharply divided the small number of people who care about the issues into two camps. One camp sees Amazon as a retailing monopolist willing to use its retailing power as a cudgel to destroy the publishing industry. The other sees Hachette as an anachronistic dinosaur that nobody needs because the great and glorious Amazon lets any jackanape with a word processing app self publish.
The truth is some greater or lesser mixture of those two hyperbolic characterizations, but both companies took a hit from the spat. Hachette's sales were hammered, but Amazon also took a hit. Both companies also took a hit in the reputation area—I personally believe Amazon fancied consumers would flock to the banner of CHEAP BOOKS FOR ALL, but the reality is a surprising number of people saw Amazon as a bully in this fray.
Part of that may be that a number of authors, including big names like James Patterson, called Amazon just that in their own public campaigns. About Thursday's agreement, Mr. Patterson said, “Books and publishing need to be preserved if not protected in this country. For the moment, this deal helps do that.”
According to The New York Times, Amazon's new deal with Hachette is modeled on a deal recently reached with Simon & Schuster, another large publishing firm. Under the deal, Hachette can set its own ebook pricing, but will be "rewarded" with better terms from Amazon the lower those prices are.
Amazon had demanded a maximum price for ebooks at $9.99, with the ability to price those books considerably cheaper.
What this means for you, the consumer, is that iBooks on the iPad still offers a better experience for reading book than a Kindle or the Kindle app, even on an iPad. Shop accordingly.