Douglas Preston Leads the Charge Against Jeff Bezos, Amazon Blasts Hachette in Response

Another Monday, another Amazon vs. Hachette headline. This time, a group of authors led by Douglas Preston, took out a full page ad in The New York Times on Sunday August 10th. The letter accuses Amazon of directly targeting Hachette authors in order to get Hachette to agree to commercial contract terms.

The letter is addressed to "Our Readers" and accuses Amazon of boycotting Hachette authors by refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette books, removing the discounts from existing Hachette books, and making the delivery of Hachette books slower than the delivery of other titles.

The letter says that most of the writers are not published by Hachette, but that they are writing to induce Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette in a way that does not affect the books of Hachette authors. The letter then asks all book lovers to email Jeff Bezos directly to tell him what they think. The letter lists Bezos' email address and notes that he loves to get reader email. It's pretty snarky, to say the least. Authors who have signed the letter include Douglas Preston (who spearheaded the letter writing project), Stephen King, John Grisham, Ann Patchett, Daniel Handler (better known as Lemony Snicket), Lee Child, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Nelson DeMille, Barbara Delinsky, Ellen Datlow and many more. There are approximately 900 signatories to the letter.

Now you didn't think Bezos was going to take that lying down, did you? Of course not. Amazon posted a letter to its readers online and emailed the same letter to all of its own Kindle Direct authors. In this letter Amazon makes its case, once again, as to why ebook prices are ridiculously high and how it is the publishers who do not pay their own authors sufficient royalties on ebooks. This last point has been agreed to by most authors who are not terribly happy with current ebook royalty rates.

Amazon then asked readers to email Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch and ask him to accept Amazon's terms for their new contract. Amazon thoughtfully provided Pietsch's email address. Amazon took a page from the Republican and Democratic national parties, providing talking points as to what to say in the email --just like the major parties do for their candidates hitting the Sunday talk shows after some big issue hits the news. The talking points include asking Hachette to: a) quit spending so much effort to overcharge for ebooks, b) stop using its own authors as leverage in the deal and c) accept Amazon's offer to take Hachette authors out of the deal by paying them 100% royalties while the parties still negotiate.

For that love a good sweeping generalization: wealthy, bestselling authors support Hachette, self-published Amazon authors support Amazon, midlist authors are split, but many support Amazon's argument about lowering ebook prices and raising author royalty rates on ebooks paid by traditional publishers. Consumers just want cheaper ebooks and wish the whole thing would go away.

Posted on August 11, 2014

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