Entertainment & Arts

Authors rally against Amazon in Hachette dispute

Left-right: Sandra Brown, James Patterson, Donna Tartt Image copyright AP/Getty Images
Image caption Sandra Brown, James Patterson, Donna Tartt are among the Hachette authors who have signed the letter

More than 900 authors are making a public appeal to Amazon to end a bitter publishing dispute that they say has been "hurting" writers and readers.

Authors including James Patterson and Donna Tartt have signed a letter to the retailer that is due to appear as a full-page advert in the New York Times.

Amazon is in a battle with Hachette, one of the world's biggest publishers, over the terms of e-book sales.

The authors said their books had been "taken hostage" by Amazon's tactics.

The online retailer has delayed delivery, prevented pre-orders and removed discounts for books by some Hachette authors, who include JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and David Baldacci.

'Misleading customers'

The letter said Amazon had singled out a group of authors for "selective retaliation" and was "inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery".

"Many of us have supported Amazon since it was a struggling start-up," the letter continued.

"Our books launched Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world's largest corporations.

"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 co-operation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs.

"This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends.

"Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business."

The letter concludes by asking readers to email Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to urge him to end the dispute. The New York Times said the letter was scheduled to appear as a full-page ad on Sunday.

Amazon's price push

Other Hachette authors to have signed up include Baldacci, Sandra Brown, Jeffery Deaver, Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Handler, who writes as Lemony Snicket.

Lee Child, Paul Auster, John Grisham, Philip Pullman and Stephen King - who are published by other houses - have also added their names.

But some of Hachette's biggest names, including Rowling and Meyer, have not.

In a recent blog, Amazon said e-books were too expensive and most should cost $9.99 (£5.95) rather than the current $14.99 (£8.92) or £19.99 (£11.90).

"That is unjustifiably high for an e-book," the company wrote.

"With an e-book, there's no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market - e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive."

Prices 'artificially high'

If prices were lowered, Amazon said, more books would be sold and total revenues would be higher. Hachette was also "sharing too small a portion with the author", it added.

Meanwhile, a petition in support of Amazon, which claims Hachette wants to keep e-book prices "artificially high", has attracted 7,600 signatures, including a number of self-published authors who praised the retailer for creating a more democratic industry.

One, Theresa Ragan, wrote that she had failed to get the attention of established publishers until Amazon allowed her to self-publish.

"They allowed readers to decide whether or not they wanted to read my books," she wrote. "What a concept! Since that time, I've sold over one million e-books."

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