Posted by Alan Tucker
In the last blog post I wrote a letter to Mr. Preston and Authors United, which I also emailed to the contact address on the AU website. Surprisingly, to me at least, Doug replied with this: (Note, I’m posting these because I don’t believe he said anything in the emails that he wouldn’t have said publicly anywhere.)
“You’re making the situation far more complicated than it is. We’re simply asking Amazon to stop hurting authors and impeding the sale of their books as a negotiating tactic. We’re not for Hachette or against Amazon. We’re not taking sides. We’re not for or against cheaper ebooks. We have made no statement on book pricing.
We have every right to protest Amazon’s targeting of 2,500 Hachette authors, driving their sales down and hurting their ability to support themselves through writing. Amazon is hurting writers, Mr. Tucker. It’s that simple. Your justification of why it’s okay for a gigantic corporation to hurt writers to gain advantage in a dispute with another large corporation is a steaming pile of sophistry.”
I replied: I do sincerely appreciate you taking the time to respond, but I’m left wondering if you read the letter.
You absolutely have every right to protest Amazon. I in no way dispute that. In fact, I understand it. I said as much in the letter.
Nowhere did I bring up ebook pricing. Hachette has every right to ask whatever they want for the books they sell. That said, anyone can refuse to buy the books if they feel the price is too high, including Amazon.
Would you prefer it if Amazon simply removed all of Hachette’s books from their store until the dispute is resolved? Because I can’t see any way for Amazon to get Hachette to negotiate a new contract that doesn’t harm those authors. If you can, I’m sure a lot of people would like to hear it. You dismissed Amazon’s three different efforts to remove the injured authors from the equation, but offer no alternatives as to what would be acceptable besides just agreeing to Hachette’s terms. How is that not taking sides?
I don’t have a horse in this race. Honestly, it would probably be better for me, personally, if the dispute continued ad infinitum. But I also care about my fellow authors and frankly, they are being shafted by Hachette and the other large publishers far worse than anything Amazon is doing. I understand my saying so isn’t going to change your mind, but I wanted you to know where I’m coming from.
To his credit, Doug replied again: I appreciate you taking the time to contact me as well. I think we just see the issue differently. Amazon is the one that leveled the sanctions on us—not Hachette. That’s the bottom line. Of course Amazon, one of the largest companies in the world, has negotiating tools at its disposal besides hurting authors. For one thing, they have an outsize voice, hundreds of millions of loyal customers, and a respected corporate brand. The offers Amazon made were entirely disingenuous and lopsided, which would have devastated Hachette financially without affecting them much. Why should we help Amazon load its guns against Hachette?
I didn’t bother responding again because it would have been a complete waste of my time. The delusion is complete and pervasive.
This interview/debate with Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson and Bloomberg Contributing Editor Paul Kedrosky is more proof of that. Her refusal to acknowledge that books are products, coupled with her bristling at the term “special snowflake” shows these people have absolutely no understanding of the world outside their own sheltered bubbles. Publishing is an entirely different experience for them than it is for the rest of the writing community and we have no common frame of reference it seems to even have a discussion.
Books — all literature — are an art form and a vehicle of entertainment. As such, they are no different from movies, television shows, games (be they card, board, or video), sporting events, music … the list goes on and on. All these things are consumed to occupy leisure time. They all have their place and their fans and none deserve special attention or government regulation or subsidies. If the writers of Authors United can’t accept this basic premise, how can we — much less Amazon — ever hope to have a reasonable discussion with them?