Jeff Bezos during the D6 Conference

Asa Mathat

Jeff Bezos during the D6 Conference


The simmering dispute between Amazon and the book publisher Hachette over the pricing of electronic books will spill over onto the printed pages of the New York Times on Sunday in a full-page advertisement, the paper reported today.

The ad, which will take the form of an open letter signed by 900-plus authors, calls on Amazon to settle its dispute with Hachette and asks readers to send 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 ad, which is being paid for by some of the authors, will mark the boldest salvo to date from the group organizing under the name Authors United. Penned by Hachette thriller author Douglas Preston, the letter is backed by many other big-name writers, including Stephen King and John Grisham. The letter says the authors are not choosing sides, but urges Amazon to stop “hurting authors” as part of the negotiations.

The contract dispute first became public in May when Hachette spoke out against Amazon’s negotiating tactics, which have involved delaying shipments of current books published by Hachette authors and not offering preorders of soon-to-be-published Hachette books.

Since then, Amazon has attempted to make the case that its negotiating tactics are commonplace in retail and that it is pushing for lower prices on behalf of its customers. The company has also argued that Hachette can afford to support lower e-book prices.

To drive the point home, the authors might want to buy a similar ad in a certain national paper owned by Bezos himself: The Washington Post.


 Please send your comments c/o Denise Cote, appointed spokesperson for Amazon for all matters concerning publishing.


Neither side is wearing the white hat.  This battle began a few years ago, when Amazon blew the whistle on illegal price fixing in the publishing industry.  There's been a number of return salvos of agitation propaganda against Amazon.  And no one doubts that Amazon itself is an aggressive company.  We like to see them lowering prices, but some of that is coming out of the author's earnings, especially these mega authors who are getting a big profit percentage.

An interesting question in the long run is, why do authors really need these middle men, in a world where they can write a book and sell it on-line, without giving most of the profit to a publishing company?  On sites like, proofreading, editing, choices of size and paper type, and various levels of advertising are available to an author _a la carte_, giving them complete control over what they want to spend and what they want to charge for their book.  That may be the future of publishing.


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