Hachette authors urge Amazon board to end contract dispute

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 15, 2014 4:17 PM

By Deepa Seetharaman

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - More than 1,000 Hachette Book Group authors including Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King and James Patterson have urged Amazon.com Inc's directors to end a contract dispute with their publisher that has cost some writers' 90 percent of their sales on the online retailer's website.

Authors United, a group representing Hachette authors, called on Amazon's 10-person board to end what it called "sanctions" on Hachette book sales on Amazon's website during the dispute between the two companies over e-book prices.

"We find it hard to believe that all members of the Amazon board approve of these actions," according to the letter posted online on Monday. "We would like to ask you a question: Do you as an Amazon director approve of this policy of sanctioning books?"

Amazon and Hachette, the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher owned by France's Lagardere , have been locked in a months-long dispute over the price of e-books.

Amazon argues that most e-books should be sold at $9.99 to spur sales, while Hachette says it should be able to set prices on its own.

Amazon has blocked pre-orders and slowed shipping times of some books, a negotiating tactic that has alienated a number of high-profile authors including Gladwell and Patterson.

The dispute has driven down Hachette authors' sales on Amazon.com by at least half and in some cases as much as 90 percent, according to the letter. Sales of e-books as well as hardcover and paperback books have been hurt.

"Because of Amazon's immense market share and its proprietary Kindle platform, other retailers have not made up the difference," according to the letter, which was first reported by the New York Times.

Amazon was not immediately available for comment. Hachette declined to comment.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)