Preston: authors 'feel betrayed' by Amazon dispute

Preston: authors 'feel betrayed' by Amazon dispute

Books “should not be treated as if they’re boxes of cereal occupying grocery store shelves”, Douglas Preston, the man behind the Authors United campaign, has said.

Speaking to Porter Anderson for The Bookseller’s FutureBook, Preston said Amazon was a good company, but that writers “feel a bit betrayed” by its actions during its dispute with Hachette Book Group.

He said that Amazon’s actions were " hurting, most of all, the debut and midlist authors who haven't yet built up a loyal audience”.

"The feeling we have is that books are different from toasters and wide-screen television sets,” Preston said. “You can't outsource Lee Child to China. They should not be treated as if they're boxes of cereal occupying grocery store shelves.

These are books and authors and writers whose livelihoods are affected by this."
The dispute over terms between Amazon and Hachette in the US has meant some titles from the publisher have been unavailable for pre-order, while others have been subject to delayed shipping.

Preston first wrote a letter to readers, signed by a number of prominent authors, in July, asking them to contact Amazon c.e.o. Jeff Bezos to “tell him what you think”.

Last week, Preston and the authors’ group, now calling themselves Authors United, revealed they would be publishing the letter and the names of its signatories as a full page ad in the New York Times.

He said he was prompted to write the letter when it emerged that “Amazon had been holding certain books hostage and delaying delivery of other books as a negotiating tactic in a dispute with Hachette”.

“I felt that was unfair,” he continued. “We [authors] had not done anything to Amazon and aren't party to the dispute. And I felt it was unfair of Amazon to target authors as a means of leverage. That's what gave me the idea that we should try to address the situation, to try to change Jeff Bezos' mind."