Amazon and Hachette are officially engaged in a tug-of-war game, and now the e-retailer is reaching out to customers for a little extra leverage for its side.
On Friday night, Amazon launched ReadersUnited.com, a website dedicated to urging readers to take a stand in its messy contract battle with the French publisher, The New York Times reported. The site features a letter from the Amazon books team, asking customers to directly email Hachette's CEO, Michael Pietsch, and tell him to "stop working so hard to overcharge for e-books."
The move appears to be a direct rebuttal to an earlier letter signed by over 900 authors -- including both authors who've been published by Hachette and ones who have not -- that asks readers to contact Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO and founder, and weigh in on the matter. The letter, which is signed by best-selling authors like Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver, as well as many others, will be published in a full-page ad in Sunday's New York Times, according to Bloomberg.
The two letters are the latest shots fired in a dispute between the two companies over e-book prices. In May, Amazon began holding Hachette hostage by raising prices and refusing to restock some Hachette titles on its site.
In its letter published Friday, Amazon argued that Hachette is preventing it from lowering e-book prices.
"E-books can and should be less expensive," the retail giant wrote in its letter. "Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices."
But in their open letter, the authors maintain that Amazon is unfairly holding them hostage by refusing to sell certain books.
"It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation," the open letter, penned by the author Douglas Preston, reads. "Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be 'Earth's most customer-centric company.'"
In a statement provided to The Huffington Post on Saturday, Preston, who writes thriller novels, said that Amazon's letter misrepresents the authors' views, and the writers "take no position on the dispute between Amazon and Hachette."
What we are united on is this: we strongly object to Amazon blocking and impeding the sales of books, hurting authors, and inconveniencing readers as a negotiating strategy. We authors helped Amazon become one of the largest corporations in the world. Amazon used book sales as the cutting edge to selling everything. And yet, when Amazon gets in a dispute with a publisher over terms, it retaliates against the authors by blocking or otherwise impeding the sales of their books. Surely Amazon has other negotiating tools in its portfolio without targeting authors and damaging our livelihoods every time they get into a rough patch negotiating with a publisher. It's as simple as that.
Pietsch, Hachette's chief, and a representative from Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.