Nearly 900 writers, including Stephen King, John Grisham, Jennifer Egan, and Donna Tartt, have signed a letter objecting to the aggressive tactics that Amazon has been using to gain leverage over the book publisher Hachette, according to the Guardian. As part of what appears to be an attempt to renegotiate the split of revenue on ebook sales in its favor, Amazon has effectively begun discouraging its shoppers from buying Hachette books by not offering preorder options and by pushing their shipping times back by weeks in some cases. While this is clearly damaging to Hachette, it's also damaging to the authors, who might otherwise be seeing more substantial royalties through book sales. The dispute has been going on for over two months now.
"What we object to is harming authors who have nothing to do with this dispute."
"We're not against Amazon as a company — we would like to see it sell books, be profitable and successful," Douglas Preston, a thriller author and the organizer of the letter, tells the Guardian. "What we object to is harming authors who have nothing to do with this dispute to gain leverage." The letter, which opposes what Preston calls Amazon's "thuggish behavior," is not yet public. Preston reportedly intends to publish it as a full-page ad in The New York Times, though there's no date given for when this might be.
Amazon has already responded to Preston's still-unpublished letter with a very aggressive statement calling him "entitled" and an "opportunist" in an attempt to discredit him. Amazon also argues that it's actually the one on the side of readers because it's trying to reduce the price of ebooks. "[Readers] have clearly expressed a preference for ebooks priced less than $10," Amazon says. "Even four years ago when readers expressed such a preference, Mr. Preston responded by saying publicly, 'The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing.' It’s pretty clear it’s Mr. Preston who feels entitled. And what’s 'astonishing' is that he thinks readers won’t recognize an opportunist who seeks readers’ support while actively working against their interests."
The high profile and sheer quantity of authors signing the letter has evidently made it something that Amazon could not ignore, but whether it'll actually make the retail giant willing to stand down seems unlikely, especially given its strong response. Amazon has shown no sign of giving in, and as the Guardian notes, the ultimate deal that's struck here is likely to spell out how things move forward for the rest of the industry. That makes the stakes awfully high for both sides, especially the publishers. They can't live happily without Amazon — but things won't be good for them with Amazon and bad sales terms either.
Update July 25th, 2:55PM ET: this article has been updated to include a statement from Amazon.