Our friends at Amazon requested that those readers and writers who support them write an email to Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch. Amazon has been very good to me over the past few years, both an author and a customer, so I was happy to oblige.
Dear Mr. Pietsch,
As a Hugo-nominated author, a Pocket Books author, and an editor
for an independent publishing house in Finland, I would like to
encourage you to rethink your position regarding Amazon. I understand
that the rapid changes in the industry are affecting your company, often
in a negative manner. I also realize that your overhead and your
contracts tend to reflect standard industry practices that are no longer
in line with the new world of digital publishing.
The fact is, Mr. Pietsch, that the world is changing and Hachette has to
change with it. Ebook prices are coming down as per the technology curve.
When have you ever known a new technology to come out and gradually
become more expensive over time? I don’t wish to criticize you or your
organization for various attempts to keep the new world at bay, as the
important point is not that colluding with other mainstream publishers,
trying to protect higher book prices, or using authors as leverage is
wrong, or even bad PR, but that such actions are ultimately futile.
The ebook genie will never go back into the bottle. Therefore, the sooner you
restructure Hachette to reflect the new realities, which include coming
to a reasonable accomodation with Amazon, the more likely it is
that your organization will survive these changes.
Hachette’s position isn’t merely economically illiterate, observably hypocritical, and morally wrong, it is untenable. At the moment, Hachette obviously needs Amazon more than Amazon needs Hachette. As for its supporters among the scribbling classes, I think Amazon would do well to teach the authors who are publicly opposed to them a Very Important Lesson by refusing to sell any of their books for six months.
After the initial screeches of outrage died down, I suspect they would all fall in line very quickly. One of the things I like about Amazon is that it is the sort of thing they might actually do; I don’t think they’d be afraid to demonstrate to those various loud-mouthed authors just how unimportant they truly are. It’s amazing how many writers not only excuse their mainstream publishers for actions that Amazon has not even committed, but fail to realize that selling books is only a small part of Amazon’s business these days.
Amazon isn’t perfect. What corporation is? But they have been the best thing for authors and the reading public since Mr. Gutenberg first assembled his printing press. And the fact that the dinosaur gatekeepers and their pet authors hate and fear it is a feature, not a bug.
One of the Mad Geniuses, Amanda, adds her two cents on the subject:
[A]ll Amazon did was take a page out of Hatchette’s book and ask its authors to take a stand. Oh the cries of foul that suddenly rose from the interwebs. Within
half a hour of reading the email, I was seeing accusations of Amazon
acting like a stalker in sending the email to the usual AHDers (Amazon
Hater Disorder sufferers) about how evil Amazon was to ask its authors
to contact poor, innocent Hatchette. There was even one author claiming
that Amazon is not and never will be a friend to authors. All of those
had me shaking my head and wondering if these folks had ever really read
their contracts with their traditional publisher — several of whom are
signed with Hatchette — as well as if they actually knew the meaning of
the terms “contract”, “negotiation” and “irony”.
What pushed me over the edge was a post by another author who
admitted to not having received or read the email but, based on what
they were seeing form their author friends, Amazon was once again
resorting to dirty pool and must be stopped because, duh, Amazon is
They really are proper little Manicheans, aren’t they.