Authors Take Opposite Sides On Hachette, Amazon Spat

An employee prepares an order at Amazon's fulfillment center in San Bernardino, Calif.

You might think that all writers would be of the same mind about the dispute between Amazon and Hachette Publishing Company over the price of ebooks. Think again. This week two different sets of authors sent open letters to their "readers" urging them to take one side or the other in the ongoing controversy.

It all began when the publisher and Amazon were unable to reach an agreement on ebook prices. The online retailer began making it difficult for customers to pre-order some of Hachette's books. They also slowed down deliveries and refused to discount some of Hachette's newly released books. Many authors, aware of their dependence on Amazon for sales, were reluctant to speak out one way or the other. But all that that changed this week.

First a group of writers including some bestsellers like James Patterson, Lee Child and David Baldacci released a letter saying that Amazon's tactics have hurt writers who are victims of the dispute. They accused Amazon of "inconveniencing and misleading" its customers with "unfair pricing" and "delayed delivery". They asked their readers to write to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and let him know how they felt. There seemed to be an underlying assumption that all readers would agree with them.

But some self published authors are putting that assumption to the test.

They responded with their own letter on change.org which is a stinging critique of traditional publishing. Hachette, they said, wants to keep ebook prices artificially high. The company, they asserted, is one of the "Big Five" New York based publishers that control the industry and decide what readers can read and what publishers can publish.

"Major publisher like Hachette," the letter reads, "have a long history of treating authors and readers poorly," while Amazon values them "dearly."

Let Hachette know where you get your books, they urged their readers. And they seemed to assume the answer would be: Amazon.

So dear reader, you've been called to arms. Care to choose a side?

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