…Amazon doesn’t have brand-loyal customers. It has price-loyal and convenience-loyal customers. Oops. But that may be enough to get some action going. We’ll see.
Today a letter written by best-selling author, Douglas Preston, and signed by 908 writers from the US, Canada, Britain and beyond, will run in the Sunday New York Times. In it, Preston asks readers to contact Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and ask that he put the Amazon-Hachette battle to bed — or at least leave authors out of it. Preston calls Amazon’s behaviour during the dispute, and more generally, “thuggish,” while an Amazon representative called him out for being “entitled” and not listening to consumers.
The group, now calling itself Authors United, stands in opposition to a group of self-published authors and customers, who’ve circulated and signed a petition against Hachette and the New York publishing industry. They seek “low prices and fair wages.” (Fair wages and treatment for authors, perhaps, but for warehouse workers?) That petition has already racked up over 7,600 signatures. And now a new campaign enters the ring, the Amazon-backed Readers United.
Amazon warns of dire consequences to its losing the battle with Hachette:
Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.
They also remind readers that Hachette and other big publishers have already been “caught” by Amazon, colluding to keep e-book prices high — true, but it’s more complicated than that. And Amazon wants you (and you, and YOU) to take action:
We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.
[Email redacted but you can find it easily if you so choose.]
Please consider including these points:
- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
- Lowering e-book prices will help — not hurt — the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.
Thanks for your support.
The Amazon Books Team
But what is truly in readers’ best interests? That’s a question far more complicated than Amazon would like it to be — readers are a diverse group, with diverse needs and preferences. While avid romances readers have wholeheartedly embraced e-books, literary fiction readers have been slower to move to the format, and many genres, from cookbooks to coffee table books, have yet to be successfully adapted. Do you want low prices before all else? Do you want a healthy, local literary scene with bookstores and salons? As Scalzi puts it at the end of a thorough breakdown of the issues for all involved,
In sum and once again: Amazon is not your friend. Neither is any other corporation. It and they do what they do for their own interest and are more than willing to try to make you try believe that what they do for their own benefit is in fact for yours. It’s not. In this particular case, this is not about readers or authors or anyone else but Amazon wanting eBooks capped at $9.99 for its own purposes. It should stop pretending that this is about anything other than that. Readers, authors, and everyone else should stop pretending it’s about anything other than that, too.