Amazon Really, Really Wants This Book War To End


Amazon just offered some authors a deal that sounds too good to refuse: A full 100 percent of proceeds from the sales of their ebooks.

"If we sell a book at $9.99, the author would get the full $9.99, many multiples of what they would normally get," David Naggar, Amazon's vice president of Kindle content, wrote in a letter to some authors, a version of which was posted on GigaOm.

The retailing behemoth is looking to win over writers whose works are published by Hachette in an attempt to break stalemated negotiations over ebook pricing. Amazon reportedly wants better terms on the Hachette ebooks it sells, and has flexed its muscle by removing the presale buttons on some Hachette titles and delaying shipments of certain books.

The sweet deal Naggar outlined in his letter to authors would last until Amazon and Hachette reach an agreement.

The offer would be "a big windfall for authors," Naggar wrote.

There's a catch, though. Hachette, owned by a French conglomerate, would have to agree to the proposal. That seems unlkely.

In a statement to The Huffington Post Tuesday afternoon, Hachette acknowledged that Amazon had "just" sent a proposal to Hachette, but did not say it would agree to the terms.

"We will continue to negotiate in good faith and with the hope of a swift conclusion," Hachette said in the statement. "We believe that the best outcome for the writers we publish is a contract with Amazon that brings genuine marketing benefits and whose terms allow Hachette to continue to invest in writers, marketing, and innovation."

News of the letter was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Amazon has said it's fighting for better prices for its customers. But some high-profile authors, like Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver and Richard Russo, say they're the losers in the dispute.

These authors have joined hundreds of others, some published by Hachette and some not, in signing a petition that urges Amazon and Hachette to come to an agreement.

"Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business," the petition, spearheaded by the author Douglas Preston, reads.

As The Guardian recently noted, other independent authors are petitioning in the retailer's favor. Self-published authors Hugh Howey, J.A. Konrath, Barry Eisler and others have asked readers not to boycott Amazon, because the company "has done more to liberate readers and writers than any other entity since Johannes Gutenberg refined the movable type printing press."

"Major publishers like Hachette have a long history of treating authors and readers poorly," the petition reads. "Amazon, on the other hand, has built its reputation on valuing authors and readers dearly. The two companies didn’t simultaneously change directions overnight."

The offer, Naggar said in his letter, "would motivate both Hachette and Amazon to work faster to resolve the situation," because neither Amazon nor Hachette would be making money while negotiations continue.

Naggar wrote that the letter was being sent to authors and their agents before it was going to Hachette.

Amazon has taken a beating in late-night TV and in the press. Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," and an author whose book is affected in the dispute, has pilloried the online retailer on his TV show, saying that "because of Amazon's scorched-earth tactics, more people are getting screwed than in Fifty Shades of Grey."

This article has been updated to include information about a petition circulated by independent authors who oppose a boycott of Amazon.

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