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Amazon "bullying" UK publishers in latest negotiations

Amazon has been accused of "bullying" by UK publishers as it looks to secure more beneficial terms in its latest round of contract negotiations.

New clauses in the negotiations would give the web giant the right to print books itself if publishers fail to meet demands and would prevent publishers from offering titles at lower rates than those given to Amazon, even on their own websites.

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Amazon would utilise its "print-on-demand" equipment to make its own copies of titles, but publishers are concerned that this produces an inferior product and would hurt their brand rather than Amazon's.

The "most-favoured nation" (MNF) proposal would also demand that publishers inform Amazon before offering eBook deals to other distributors.

One spokesperson for an independent publishing firm said that Amazon had become "increasingly ruthless" in its negotiations, while in Germany, a trade association believes the MNF clause would see Amazon contradict competition rules.

Editor of The Bookseller, Philip Jones, said in an interview with the BBC that if Amazon's new terms were accepted, it would be a "form of assisted suicide for the industry."

It is also thought that the latest negotiations may just be a tactic by Amazon before offering a more favourable deal. It is an approach that has been used by the web firm in the past, although generally the company prefers verbal agreements and rarely documents its negotiations.

The initial indications are that many publishers would refuse Amazon's new terms if approached..

The issue emerges as the company faces a dispute with publishers Hachette in the US and after the French government prevented the firm from offering free delivery on discounted books in an effort to support the country's independent book stores.

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Mr Jones emphasised that this was a watershed moment for the web corporation.

"The worst thing that could happen [to book publishers] would be for Amazon to go away," he said.

"The second worst thing would be for it to become more dominant."