HarperCollins is the latest "Big Five" publisher to refuse to sign an updated contract with Amazon. According to a source at Business Insider, the existing HarperCollins vs. Amazon contract is set to expire "very soon," and the publishing house isn't happy with the contract terms from Amazon. However, if the two companies don't find common ground in a new contract, Amazon will not offer HarperCollins titles on its site, in print or in digital format. Could this be the beginning of another brutal battle, in line with Amazon's public conflict with Hachette that lasted several months last year?
Amazon released a statement saying that the HarperCollins contract is the same as the documentation it presented to other major publishing houses, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and most notably, Hachette, and was agreed to by all three. HarperCollins said it was company policy not to comment on any of its contract negotiations.
This contract battle shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone following HarperCollins' business movements in the last year. The publishing house has been making moves to position itself not only as a publisher, but as a retailer, so that — perhaps as a response to the ongoing Hachette conflict — it would not be subject to relying heavily on Amazon to move its books.
HarperCollins is arguably one of the most innovative publishing houses, committed to getting a foothold in the modern age. It was the first major house to sign on to the "Netflix for books" Scribd; it partnered with JetBlue airlines to bring its books to in-flight entertainment systems; it teamed up with Accenture to sell digital copies of C.S. Lewis's beloved The Chronicles of Narnia series on a dedicated website; and it started selling its books on its website, in addition to on Amazon and other sources; among many other thoughtful moves, propelling the publisher in an enviable position in any struggle.
There's no specific information on just when the HarperCollins-Amazon contract is set to expire, but if HarperCollins' recent savvy business decisions are any indicator, they're primed and ready to fight.