Authors United threatens next Amazon move

Authors United threatens next Amazon move

Campaign group Authors United is being “forced to move on to our next initiative” because Amazon has not yet halted its dispute with Hachette Book Group in the US.

The group’s founder, Douglas Preston (pictured), also said he hoped Amazon would not “start targeting” Simon & Schuster books, as the publisher has recently entered negotiations with Amazon. Preston was writing to those who signed Authors United’s letter to Amazon, which was printed in the New York Times.

The letter, signed by writers including Stephen King, James Patterson and Lee Child, called on Amazon “to resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers”.

In his latest letter to authors, Preston said: “Amazon is continuing to sanction books: 2,500 Hachette authors and over 7,000 titles have now apparently been affected. Hachette authors have seen their sales at Amazon decline at least 50% and in many cases as much as 90%. This has been going on for six months and it has been particularly damaging to struggling debut and midlist authors.”

Preston said Amazon had been “falsely” trying to portray Authors United as a group of "rich authors who are seeking higher e-book prices, while it is fighting on behalf of the consumer for lower prices”.

“Unfortunately, some media outlets have bought this Amazon disinformation campaign,” he wrote. “We have not, of course, made any statements whatsoever on book pricing. Our point is simple: we believe it is unacceptable for Amazon to sanction books as a negotiating tactic. Amazon has other negotiating tools at its disposal than harming the very authors who helped it become one of the largest retailers in the world. Amazon could stop the sanctions tomorrow while continuing to negotiate with Hachette.”

Preston also asked authors to “counter Amazon's disinformation campaign” through social media, blogs and opinion pieces and said that Amazon’s continuing “sanctions” meant Authors United would continue its campaign.

“And so we are forced to move on to our next initiative,” he told authors. “I will be asking you once again for the use of your good name - perhaps as soon as next week.”
Speaking on Radio 4’s The Report last week, Preston said Authors United’s next step would be a “very unpleasant surprise” for Amazon.

In a separate move, American author Janet Fitch has made public a letter she wrote to Amazon c.e.o. Jeff Bezos earlier this year.

In it, she said that Amazon’s tactics of delaying delivery of books and preventing pre-orders were equivalent to those used in “totalitarian countries with a political agenda–but which Amazon is doing for the sake of squeezing out the last drop of profit”.

She said the result was that Amazon was “undercutting the ability of writers to live and create, the ability of publishers to gather and refine and put the best of the best before the public, rather than reinforcing and strengthening the components of our intellectual and cultural life whose future you, at bottom, hold in your hands”.

She also compared Amazon to a parasite, saying that “unlike symbiosis, a parasite kills its host, and eventually, itself”.

In an interview with the HuffPost Live, American author Ben Mezrich has also said the “battle” between Amazon and Hachette was “terrifying for authors because the bottom line is if you commodify books, to the degree that it’s just like a lawnmower or just like something else, what is the value of a book?”.

He said Amazon was a “phenomenal thing for writers” when it worked, but added: “Writers make more money off their Kindle sales than they do off their books right now… The question is, what happens if that price [per Kindle sale] goes all the way down to 99 cents?”