Amazon turns authors into Hachette's personal Judas
Amazon is looking to expand its army. The company has sent a letter to authors affected by its dispute with Hachette, which has caused increased shipping times and the disappearance of pre-order buttons from certain books, offering them the full price of any ebook it sells during the conflict. It has already used its customers as captive soldiers; now it's promising 30 silver pieces to authors in the hopes of using them to force Hachette to hasten its own negotiations.
Besides tempting authors with promises of more cash -- which would also require Hachette to offer its share of each sale -- Amazon says that it might "return to normal levels of on-hand print inventory, return to normal pricing in all formats, and for books that haven’t gone on sale yet, reinstate pre-orders." The company is effectively telling authors that the dispute could be over within 72 hours if Hachette agrees to come back to the table and continue negotiating.
It's clear that Amazon is no longer hiding behind double-speak and non-denials. The company is instead resorting to bribery, and in doing so it's shown once again that it doesn't care about consumers (who are still beholden to its whims) or publishers (since Hachette would have to sacrifice its own revenues under the proposal) but is instead desperate to finish negotiations -- which, funnily enough, are said to revolve around the commission it receives from ebook sales.
Of course, the best thing about this proposal is that it makes Amazon seem like it's willing to help support authors and placate consumers so long as Hachette starts taking its calls again. Never mind the fact that authors and consumers alike are in this position because Amazon is using hardball negotiation tactics and abandoning its so-called ideals in favor of the power it needs to force Hachette and other companies, like Warner Bros, to give it whatever it wants.
But it seems that Amazon will have to try a different tactic in its efforts to win over authors. As Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild, told the New York Times in a statement:
Amazon might have been able to convince past critics that it had the best interests of authors, publishers, consumers, and its shareholders at heart when it amassed so much power over the modern content market, but those days appear to be over. People are seeing the company for what it really is: a monolith hoping to control as much of the entertainment industry as it can.
If Amazon wants to have a constructive conversation about this, we’re ready to have one at any time. But this seems like a short-term solution that encourages authors to take sides against their publishers. It doesn’t get authors out of the middle of this – we’re still in the middle. Our books are at the center of this struggle.
[image adapted from thinkstock]