Amazon’s Hachette Dispute Prompts Authors’ Ad in N.Y. Times

Aug 09, 2014 11:52 am ET

(Updates with Amazon comment starting in second paragraph.)

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc.’s dispute with Hachette Book Group is becoming more public by the week.

Tomorrow, a letter signed by more than 900 authors will be published in the New York Times, urging readers to contact Jeff Bezos, the Web store’s chief executive officer, to tell him what they think of the disagreement over the price of digital books. Amazon posted its own letter last night, asking readers instead to contact Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch.

Last week, the world’s largest online retailer made its case for lower prices, saying that sales of titles go up when prices are cut, citing data gathered on its website. The spat first became public earlier this year when Amazon blocked pre- orders for some of Hachette’s books. Amazon dominates digital- book sales with 60 percent of the market, according to Forrester Research. The company also helped pioneer the e-book market with the introduction of the Kindle device in 2007.

“As writers -- most of us not published by Hachette -- we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want,” the authors said in the letter, which was written by Douglas Preston, co-author of the Pendergast series. “We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without further hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.”

Brittany Turner, a spokeswoman for Seattle-based Amazon, declined to comment. Sophie Cottrell, a spokeswoman for New York-based Hachette, said the publisher wasn’t involved in the letter or placement in the New York Times.

More for Less

For every copy of an e-book that sells at $14.99, Amazon would sell 74 percent more e-books if priced at $9.99, the retailer said in its letter.

“Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books,” Amazon said in the letter on its website readersunited.com. “We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices.”

Amazon also has appealed directly to authors in a letter last month, offering them all of the proceeds from the sale of any e-book during the dispute.

The authors’ letter, which will run as an ad in the main section of the New York Times, is aimed at readers, Preston said.

“We now have the strength to make a big statement, and we also had a number of authors offering money to take out an ad,” said Preston, a Hachette author who is also contributing. “We decided the New York Times, full of thinkers, was the best place to take out an ad.”

--With assistance from David Wethe in Houston.