As happens with many behemoth corporations, Amazon’s ego seems to have gotten out of control to the point where its business tactics have drawn public ire. Remarkably, the company is being called out — not just by us regular folk — but by authors like John Grisham, Scott Turrow, J.K. Rowling and the King family (including Joe Hill and Tabitha). The group of over 900 writers, aka Authors United, took out a two page ad in Sunday’s New York Times, asking Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to “…stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business.” The open letter bullet-points Amazon’s bullying tactics, the result of an ongoing price war between the online retailer and New York publisher, the Hachette Book Group. As Authors United notes, Amazon is delaying delivery, eliminating discounts and refusing preorders on Hachette authors, hurting not only the writers, but the customers Amazon has always claimed to put first. As a NYT op ed notes, the book retailer stoops to suggest alternative books “at a lower price” to dissuade buyers from purchasing a Hachette author.
Interestingly, Neil Gaiman (a Hatchette author) doesn’t see Amazon as the enemy. Rather, he likens the price-wars to “Godzilla battling Gamera,” with authors looking up, “…rather worried that a skyscraper might topple on us.” And sure, customers can go to their independent book stores (if we have one left), or our local library, but in the end these tactics do hurt many authors.
And it’s not only books; Amazon is now in a contract dispute with Disney, and has stopped pre-orders of DVDs and Blu-Rays, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maleficent and Muppets Most Wanted. (I think Bezos has underestimated our devotion to CapAss.)
Big name writers like James Patterson are publicly speaking out against Amazon’s bullying tactics; “If Amazon’s not a monopoly, it’s the beginning of one,” he said as he accepted an award from independent booksellers. “If this is to be the new American way, this has to be changed, by law if necessary,” and Authors United is urging Amazon customers to email Jeff Bezos their thoughts directly.
Amazon has already responded to the Authors United open letter, and Hatchette CEO Michael Pietsch has clarified his view on the dispute and Amazon’s tactics; Disney and Marvel have yet to respond (May I suggest a Groot/Thor one-two punch?)