An open letter to Hachette r.e. Amazon

As an Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) author, I received an email today from their KDP team. It laid out their side of the Amazon-Hachette dispute and encouraged authors to write a letter directly to Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch supporting Amazon’s position. They drew a faulty parallel between changes in book format (hardback -> paperback -> ebook) and Amazon’s attempt to completely control the e-publishing world. I wrote the letter, but it’s not what Amazon asked me to write. I stand with Douglas Preston and the other writers at Authors United, not with Amazon. I want what’s best for the book business, including readers, not what’s best for Amazon to everyone else’s detriment. Here’s what I sent:

Dear Mr. Pietsch;

I’m sure you’ve seen Amazon’s plea to its authors to back them in the Hachette dispute. You are probably getting a lot of emails, mostly from authors who have thrown together an ebook and tossed it on the Kindle store unedited. Yes, I’ve self-published, and I hired editors and proofreaders when I did it. I’ve also been published by one of the big houses (Elsevier), a regional press (FarCountry), a trade association press, and a historical society press. I haven’t been published with Hachette, but I’d be honored to be one of your authors someday.

My opinion isn’t what Amazon wants to read.

I believe that publishers have the right to price their own products. My last book with Elsevier went through a cover design team, an editor, a proofreader, a fact-checker, a book designer, an indexer, and a peer review team. These things cost money. If you decide that Hachette needs to sell a book — paperback, hardback, audio, or electronic — to wholesalers or retailers for $10.00, that is your decision to make. Amazon has become the 500 pound gorilla in this industry, and they believe that it gives them the right to run your business for you.

Amazon is not after lower prices for consumers. They are after control. They wish to push the profits out of ebooks for everyone but themselves, killing as many publishers and competing stores as they can to solidify their market, so that they may raise prices once they have a monopoly as secure as their monopsony is now. They have hurt the book trade badly, and I applaud you for standing your ground.

I support Hachette in this battle, just as I support the the agency model that Apple used. It’s good for publishers, good for authors, and ultimately produces higher quality products for readers as well. I hope that more publishers will have the guts to stand up to Amazon’s bullying, and that we will return to a free market on books instead of a “whatever Amazon says” market.

Thank you for your time.

Gary Robson

I hope that authors who have only looked at Amazon’s side of the story will step back and look at what Amazon has actually done to publishers, writers, and competing stores. Online book sales are great. Ebooks are great. Having both of those completely controlled by a single company — especially a predatory company like Amazon — is not great.

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