Hachette-Amazon

On Sunday, Authors United will run a full-page ad on the New York Times with an open letter signed by over 900 authors asking online retailer Amazon to stop the dispute with book publisher Hachette Book Group (HBG), reports The New York Times.

The major online retailer Amazon is in a battle with one of the world’s biggest publishers Hachette over the terms of e-book sales for their new contract. While the negotiation is yet to close, Amazon has since stopped taking pre-orders, retracted discounts, and delayed delivery of books by some Hachette authors. These authors include JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and David Baldacci. The authors claim of being a victim of “selective retaliation” which they find is “inconveniencing and misleading its [Amazon] own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery”.

Dispute

Amazon and Hachette are negotiating on how Hachette is going to sell its future books at Amazon. It’s been slated that Amazon wants to control how much an e-book should cost. Amazon’s contention is that an e-book should cost less, as unlike paperback editions, the production cost while making an e-book is minimal.

Both the companies have remained aloof on revealing the proposed terms, however some reports suggest that Amazon also wants to introduce “print-on-demand’ capability, under which, as opposed to now when an author gets the rights to the book when its sales are down, Amazon wants to have the publishing rights when the book sales approaches 0. Authors protest that this will mean no room for negotiation — ultimately less money for them.

In May, HBG accused Amazon for playing cruel to force its agreement on them. The negotiation between both the parties has been going for months now. While they are yet to reach at a conclusion, Amazon has started playing foul game by affecting the sales of books by HBG authors.

Why can’t HBG just dump Amazon and move to other retailers?

One would think why hasn’t Hachette just ditched Amazon and moved to some other retailer, and the reason is Amazon’s mammoth presence in the book (also, e-book) retail business. Amazon accounts for over 50% of all books sales in the United States, and over 60% of all e-books.

The open-letter, which has become a public showdown, is written by the best-selling author Douglas Preston (past Hachette writer), who founded Authors United. His initiative is now backed by over 900 authors. These authors claim to be not taking any sides, however they want a fair treatment by their business partners.

The open letter which will appear on tomorrow’s edition of New York Times as an advert asks readers to email messages to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at his Amazon email address, which is printed in the letter. “He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails at that account,” the letter reads. “We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.”

The cost of the advert is being paid by some of the authors. The open letter is backed by some very renowned writers including Stephen King and John Grisham.

Amazon’s big controversy file

This isn’t the first time Amazon has been accused of using its position to make its way. In the book “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon”, author Brad Stone has documented several instances where Amazon has crushed its partners for its own profit. One such example is when Amazon started playing tricks with Diapers.com to ultimately own the giant baby products portal.

The book points out Amazon’s “Competitive Intelligence” strategy, where it orders products in large quantities from its suppliers partner to analyze their business model. The company then slashes the product’s price on its website to forcefully bring down the revenue of the partner.

What happens now?

Some authors are ditching Amazon, and seeking other routes to sell their books. Meanwhile, the original agreement is still being negotiated.

And it seems Amazon is now emailing authors to help it protest against Hachette. More on this as the story develops.