Amazon Responsible for Huge Share of Hachette Ebook Sales

In Discussion by Dennis Abrams

Amazon is responsible for 78%  for Hachette ebook sales in the UK, and 60% in the United States — which makes the company especially vulnerable.

By Dennis Abrams

Amazon vs. Hachette LogosAs the dispute between Amazon and Hachette rages on, The Bookseller reports that, according to an Investor Day presentation by Hachette Livre, Amazon has a 78% market share of Hachette Livre titles in the UK, and a 60% share in the United States.

The Bookseller said that, “the presentation, made public on the company’s website and first reported by Publishers Marketplace, and shed fresh light into how hard the publisher must be being hit by its current row with Amazon in the UK, which has seen pre-ordering removed from selected Hachette Book Group Titles. The presentation has also discussed a necessary ‘rebalancing’ between the company’s US and UK operations.”

According to the report, 60% of Hatchette’s digital titles in the US are through Amazon, with Barnes & Noble following behind with a 19% share, Apple iBooks with a 13% share, with “others,” including Kobo and Google with 8%.

The figures, says The Bookseller, suggest that if the dispute between Hachette and Amazon spills over to the UK (as some fear), it would hit the publisher even harder, since Amazon commands a whopping 78% share of Hachette’s ebook sales in the UK, followed by Apple with 12%, Kobo with 5% and “others,” including Google, Nook and OverDrive which split 5% of sales amongst themselves.

The report states that, “Publishers are now dealing with giant technology players who enjoy considerable bargaining power,” which was “a different economic rationale from traditional retailers.”

Consolidation, according to the report, is also inevitable, especially after last year’s merger of Penguin and Random House, and HarperCollins’ purchase of Harlequin earlier this year. “Publishers,” Hachette said, “need size and muscle in order to keep control over relations with authors over pricing and distribution.”

The Bookseller said that “One of the ‘strategic priorities’ Hachette is pursuing to consolidate its market position is to ‘rebalance’ its US and UK operations. The publisher said it was actively looking for international bestsellers with worldwide rights and would focus more on the US market to ‘identify, acquire and develop top authors, titles, licenses to maintain its leading positioning all markets,’ because ‘these talents are mainly sourced in the US,’ giving Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning title The Goldfinch as an example.”

Since the US market is bigger than the UK’s both in terms of readership as well as the number of new titles published, Hachette said that it was “necessary to be a bigger player in the USA than in the UK in order to secure enough primary rights.”

According to The Bookseller, “The historic establishment of Hachette in the UK first meant the portfolio of activities between the USA and UK was ‘skewed’ and that British publishers of the group were ‘insufficiently provided with US titles,’ by the Hachette Book Group, according to the report. The bestselling authors of Hachette UK were not published by the rest of the group but instead by competitors in the USA, such as Stephen King and Harlan Coben, therefore the publisher intended to ‘rebalance the weight of the US vs. the UK subsidiary.”

How vulnerable is Hachette to Amazon’s influence? What can be done? Let us know what you think in the comments. 

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.