The dispute between Amazon – the world’s pre-eminent retailer of books – and Hachette, one of the so-called Big 5 Publishers, has transfixed the publishing industry. Corporate hardball in retail-supplier negotiations is hardly unknown, but this particular game of hardball is snaring some very big name authors: Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Colbert and many others. Amazon is pulling “Buy now” buttons from author pages and putting lists of books by comparable authors right at the top of Hachette author pages.

The fightback from Hachette and the industry generally has been fierce, with most observers believing that Amazon is coming off worst in the PR war, despite some fairly bold efforts to compensate authors – and rather more openness than that famously secretive firm normally permits.

That war, however, has not generally explored the financial ins and outs of the dispute – which is what this infographic takes a close look at. In revenue terms, Amazon dwarfs any of its publishing competitors, even if we look at Amazon’s media sales only. But this dispute isn’t about revenues, but about the sharing of profits – and remarkably, Amazon’s profits from books are puny – exceeded by each of the Big 5 publishers and collectively only about 1/7th of the Big 5 total. That data suggests that however (strangely) badly Amazon is faring in PR terms, the financial issue is not likely to be settled until Amazon gets a larger – and fairer? – share of the spoils.

Oh – and authors? They have so far been siding resolutely with Hachette and the publishing industry generally … no matter that there is at the same time a spatter of barbed observations about the frighteningly small amounts that publishers pay authors. Continue to watch this space! This show will run and run.



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