Amazon delays Hachette book shipments as companies negotiate contract

Amazon(s amzn) is delaying shipments of print books from big-five publisher Hachette, likely because the internet retailer is attempting to get better terms from Hachette during negotiations of a new contract.

So if you search for Hachette print titles on Amazon’s website, you’ll see that many of them are taking several weeks to ship, even though they’re in stock at other sites. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and James Patterson’s NYPD Red, for instance, are listed as shipping within 2 to 3 weeks. Ebooks aren’t affected, and not all Hachette titles are affected: Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is shipping right away, for example.

Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 8.25.14 AM

“It is our normal policy not to comment on negotiations with any retailer,” Hachette spokeswoman Sophie Cottrell told Publishers Lunch in a statement (paywall), but:

“[W]e have been asked legitimate questions about why many of our books are at present marked out of stock with relatively long estimated shipping times on the Amazon website, in contrast to immediate availability on other websites and in stores.

We are satisfying all Amazon’s orders promptly, and notifying them constantly of forthcoming publicity events and of out-of-stock situations on their website. Amazon is holding minimal stock and restocking some of HBG’s books slowly, causing ‘available 2-4 weeks’ messages, for reasons of their own.

We are grateful for the patience of authors and all Amazon readers as we work to reach an agreement and to encourage Amazon to be back to offering Hachette Book Group’s books within normal shipment times.”

It’s not the first time that Amazon has interfered with publishers’ sales through its website in an attempt to get better terms or larger discounts on titles. In 2012, for instance, the retailer turned off the buy button on distributor IPG’s 5,000 Kindle titles. And in 2010 the company did the same on Macmillan titles at the beginning of the battle over agency pricing. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble (s BKS) stopped carrying many Simon & Schuster books in its stores during negotiations last year, before eventually reaching a new contract.

A previous version of this post incorrectly identified the author of NYPD Red. The author is James Patterson, not David Baldacci.