Authors United Calls on Amazon’s Board of Directors

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Authors United, a group of more than 1,000 U.S. authors, has penned a letter to Amazon’s 10-member board of directors to request that each member look at Amazon’s actions against Hachette Book Group and consider whether they support them, the New York Times reported on Monday.

The letter, which was scheduled to be sent to the board on Wednesday, September 17, characterized Amazon’s actions as “sanctions” against Hachette titles, and noted they include “refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors’ pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette books.”

Earlier this month, author Douglas Preston, Authors United’s founder, wrote to the authors who had signed the August 10 New York Times ad calling for the end of the months-long dispute to inform them that the group was looking to use their names in the next move.

Pointing to a significant drop in Hachette authors’ sales through Amazon, which are estimated to be down between 50 to 90 percent, the signatories of this week’s letter stressed to the Amazon board: “These men and women are deeply concerned about what this means for their future careers... Amazon is undermining the ability of authors to support their families, pay their mortgages, and provide for their kids’ college educations.”

Amazon’s narrative on the issue paints members of Authors United as rich, bestselling authors who are looking to drive up e-book prices, but, the letter clarified, the campaigning authors have never made a statement about e-book pricing.

The group of authors signing off on this week’s letter tops 1,000 and goes beyond Hachette authors to include those from a variety of other publishing houses and writers in an array of different genres.

Authors United noted that Amazon has plenty of other negotiating options and does not need to involve authors. The signatories expressed their disbelief that every member of Amazon’s board supports the company’s punitive actions and pointedly asked: “Do you as an Amazon director approve of this policy of sanctioning books?”

Wednesday’s letter was addressed to board members Patricia Q. Stonesifer of Martha’s Table; Thomas O. Ryder of RPX Rational Patent; Tom A. Alberg of Madrona Venture Group; John Seely Brown, visiting scholar and advisor to the provost at University of Southern California; Alain Monie of Ingram Micro Inc.; Jonathan J. Rubinstein of Qualcomm Incorporated; William Gordon of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Jamie Gorelick of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; Judy McGrath, president of Astronauts Wanted; and to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and the board’s chairman.