Authors weigh in on Amazon, Hachette dispute

The clash between Amazon.com and publishing giant Hachette  has taken a new turn, as hundreds of authors asked readers to write e-mails to Amazon's chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos to protest the web retailer's tough tactics.

One letter, spearheaded by author Douglas Preston and signed by nearly 400 authors--including Stephen King, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert A. Caro and novelist James Patterson--takes Amazon to task specifically for not accepting pre-orders on Hachette authors' books, not discounting the prices of many Hachette books and slowing the delivery of many Hachette titles to consumers' doorsteps.

"We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends," the authors say in their letter.

A working draft of the letter provided to The Post is embedded below. Nearly 400 have agreed to sign the letter so far, according to author and lead letter-writer Douglas Preston. Some, but not all, of the authors are published by Hachette.

Author letter to Amazon (Work in Progress)

In a statement, Amazon said that it regrets that the negotiation dispute has hurt authors.

“Our focus for years has been to build a bookstore that benefits authors and readers alike. We take seriously and regret the impact it has when, however infrequently, a terms dispute with a publisher affects authors," said Amazon, whose chief executive Bezos owns The Washington Post, in a statement. "We look forward to resolving this issue with Hachette as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, a competing petition posted to Change.org points the finger squarely at publishers for the dispute--and bears the name of 26 authors, many of whom are self-published. Many of those authors note that Amazon's self-publishing platform has given authors a direct way to disseminate their work.

New York Publishing once controlled the book industry," the petition says. "They decided which stories you were allowed to read. They decided which authors were allowed to publish. They charged high prices while withholding less expensive formats," the petition reads. "Amazon, in contrast, trusts you to decide what to read, and they strive to keep the price you pay low."

That petition has thus far gained over 2,000 signatures on the site from authors and consumers.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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