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Questions over HarperCollins and Amazon deal

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It was just last fall that Amazon settled a very public dispute with Hachette, in which the book publisher won the right to set its own e-book prices. Now, there is news that another storm may be brewing – this time between Amazon and HarperCollins.

The publisher has reportedly refused to sign a deal with Amazon.

In an email, an Amazon representative said the e-commerce giant has offered HarperCollins “the same terms for a contract that Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan have all recently agreed to.”

HarperCollins refused to comment.

“Amazon suffered quite a lot last year with the Hachette experience,” says James McQuivey of Forrester Research, who tracks Amazon and book publishers. He says a similar public spat this time around is unlikely, adding that what HarperCollins may want is some of Amazon’s customer data.

“Amazon is historically unwilling to share… customer data, and maybe HarperCollins is ready to actually make a point of that,” says McQuivey.

And, making that point is important, says industry consultant Peter McCarthy.

“In the past, publishers were business-to-business companies at the end of the day. They didn’t know who the end reader really was,” McCarthy says.

HarperCollins is among publishers trying to change that, both McCarthy and McQuivey say, experimenting with direct sales to customers. So, access to some of Amazon’s customer data, even just names and emails, would be very important to the publishing giant, McCarthy says.

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