Amazon negotiates with publishers for right to print books on-demand

amazon-fullAmazon is seeking controversial concessions from mid-level British book publishers in its latest round of contract negotiations — including the ability to print books on-demand using its own equipment — according to a report by the BBC.

That would allow Amazon to maintain stock in the event a publisher isn’t able to keep up, or keep a book available for sale that a publisher has left out of print. However, the BBC reports that print-on-demand books are can often be an “inferior product,” and the publishers worry that they would be held responsible for the quality of the book’s printing, even though they have no control over it.

In addition, Amazon is reportedly seeking Most Favored Nation (MFN) clauses in the contracts with mid-level publishers, which would require publishers to inform Amazon about promotions they give other retail outlets, and let the Seattle-based online retailer offer the same deal to its customers. Publishers offering e-book contracts to other companies would have to offer Amazon the same terms.

One publisher told the BBC that it believes Amazon is “bullying” the publishers and destroying the industry. The story was previously reported by The Bookseller online news site.

According to the BBC report, the European Union is “investigating the UK book industry.” It’s unclear what role Amazon’s contract negotiations will play in that investigation. The company is already in some hot water elsewhere in Europe: German publishers filed an antitrust claim against the company over its e-book pricing practices earlier this week.

It’s unclear how these demands translate, if at all, to Amazon’s current negotiations elsewhere. Amazon is currently locked in a dispute with Hachette Book Group over its contract, and has blocked customers from pre-ordering upcoming titles from the publisher. Users who search for books written by Hachette authors may find that their estimated shipping time is several weeks away.

Amazon has said that people who need Hachette books immediately should turn to another retailer, but the company did soften its stance when it comes to shipping “The Silkworm,” the latest book from Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling (written under the pen name Robert Galbraith).