Penguin Random House and Waterstones have resolved their terms dispute, much to the relief of literary agents who were worried their clients’ sales were being affected. Both parties now say it is “business as usual” and issued a joint statement saying: “Penguin Random House UK is pleased to have returned to business as usual with Waterstones and both companies look forward to continuing to work together closely as partners.”
The row, which has raged for the last month or so, saw Waterstones stop including PRH titles in its promotions and reduce the visibility of PRH titles. The dispute followed a limit placed on its credit by the publisher in the final quarter of 2020, which the chain said meant it had to carefully manage its stock of PRH titles. PRH admitted last month a credit limit had been introduced “at a very significant level” but claimed there were “no practical restrictions on trading now”.
The strength of feeling at Waterstones can be seen by an email sent to staff which noted that “the obduracy of PRH’s finance department is over”.
Agents are delighted by the resolution of the problem. Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander said: “I am so thrilled and relieved with the news from PRH and Waterstones and grateful to all parties that they have been able to resolve their differences in time for what we hope will be a bumper summer of reading, with so many great books to choose from across all publishers’ lists.
“I also hope that there might be opportunities to be found to pick up on some of the PRH books that were published into the last weeks of lockdown and re-opening during the period of the dispute, as there are many authors whose sales will have been adversely affected.”
Older industry observers have noted how the dispute itself was arguably a sign of a return to normality after Covid. “Rows like this have long been a part of UK book trade history,” one commentator said. “Back in the day, it was always W H Smith that was at the centre. This latest episode with Waterstones has also coincided with a big royal story in the papers with the BBC criticized for how it secured its Princess Diana interview. These events show that we must be getting back to normal – and it is a relief.”