In an email sent out overnight to authors who use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service, Amazon asked writers to reach out to publishing giant Hachette and speak up about the publisher’s “illegal collusion” regarding high e-book prices.
Amazon started out the letter by regaling authors with the history of what happened when paperback books became widely available just before World War II. Up to then, most books were only available in hardcover, and the advent of cheaper paperback books scared publishers, who thought that they’d be run out of business.
From Amazon’s letter:
“They [publishers] believed low-cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new format: ‘if publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.’ Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.”
Amazon’s letter then went on to say that history is in fact repeating itself when it comes to e-books. Amazon explains how it, and one of the largest publishers in the world, Hachette, is in a modern-day fight over the cost of e-books. Amazon states it wants lower prices for the format, and Hachette does not.
“Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book.”
Claiming that Hachette has already been caught for conspiring with its competitors — including Apple — to keep the costs of e-books high, Amazon called out the multi-billion dollar media conglomerate Hachette for “illegal collusion” as only a company as large as Amazon can.
This dispute has been ongoing. Amazon — the largest online retailer in the world — has withheld shipment of Hachette titles and has actually prohibited customers from pre-ordering some popular Hachette titles until the publisher sees the light. According to the Washington Post, Amazon stated publicly at the end of last month that it would like to see e-books priced no higher than $9.99.
Hachette has remained almost completely silent on the topic, refusing to respond or comment to news outlets.
Publishers aren’t losing money on e-books with the lower prices, Amazon says. There’s no overhead concerning printing, shipment or warehousing like there is with paperback and hardcover books. The prices of e-books are elastic, meaning the cheaper they are, the more they sell. Amazon also reminded authors and consumers that books aren’t only competing against other books, they are competing against video games, movies, television, Facebook, free news outlets, blogs, and more. As a result, e-books aren’t in danger of destroying literary culture, they’re a bastion of protection against that destruction.
Amazon urged its Kindle Direct authors to contact Hachette directly and express displeasure with the company’s “illegal collusion” via an email to Hachette’s CEO Michael Pietsch. It seems that in an effort to bolster its discussions in the board room, Amazon is mounting a public relations campaign against the huge publishing house.
Amazon reminds all that they don’t have to be an author to contact Hachette, any reader or consumer has a right and an interest to do so. Amazon publicly posted the letter to their authors for all to see.
[Image via NextWeb]