Corporate giants Amazon and book publisher Hachette have been wrestling for dollars — and many authors who believe those dollars are coming out of their pockets blame Amazon’s tactics. Over 900 writers signed Authors United’s public letter of August 7 asking to be taken out the line of fire.
Amazon is involved in a commercial dispute with the book publisher Hachette , which owns Little, Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints. These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a corporate back room.
But in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.
For the past several months, Amazon has been:
—Boycotting Hachette authors, by refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette authors’ books and eBooks, claiming they are “unavailable.”
—Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette authors’ books.
—Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette authors’ books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.
–Suggesting on some Hachette authors’ pages that readers might prefer a book from a non-Hachette author instead.
As writers–most of us not published by Hachette–we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.
The Authors United statement, which will be published as an ad in this weekend’s New York Times, included Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s e-mail address and asked people to “call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without further hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.”
Amazon countered on August 9 with a public answer from ”Readers United”:
Amazon and Hachette — a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate — are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.
Amazon also argues that when books are priced lower more people buy them, yielding more total sales overall.
And, tit for tat, Amazon provided the e-mail of Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch, recommending readers ask him for lower ebook prices and an end to the dispute.