Amazon has developed some new enemies in its battle with book publisher Hachette: high-profile authors.
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Best-selling author and guru to teens John Green is the latest to pile on against the largest bookseller in the U.S. In an interview with the Associated Press, Green said of the Amazon-Hachette dispute:
“What’s ultimately at stake is whether Amazon is going to be able to freely and permanently bully publishers into eventual nonexistence,” adding, ”The breadth of American literature and the quality of American literature is in no small part due to the work that publishers do, and it’s very unfortunate, in my opinion, to see Amazon refuse to acknowledge the importance of that partnership.”
He made his comments in New York while on tour to promote the film adaptation of his blockbuster title The Fault in Our Stars.
Add his name to James Patterson’s and Malcolm Gladwell’s (both Hachette authors, unlike Green, who is published by Penguin Random House). Patterson, the extremely prolific best-selling author of over 100 works, implored his nearly four million Facebook fans to read the “four most important paragraphs” he will ever write. A sample:
“There is a war going on between Amazon and book publishers….
“Amazon is making it difficult to order many books from Little, Brown and Grand Central, which affects readers of authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, me, and hundreds of others whose living depends on book sales. What I don’t understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers. It certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors.
“Bookstores, libraries, authors, and books themselves are caught in the cross fire….”
Gladwell was less strident in his remarks:
“It’s sort of heartbreaking when your partner turns on you. Over the past 15 years, I have sold millions of dollars’ worth of books on Amazon, which means I have made millions of dollars for Amazon. I would have thought I was one of their best assets. I thought we were partners in a business that has done well. This seems an odd way to treat someone who has made you millions of dollars.”
Unlike publishers, most of which have little consumer brand recognition, authors are known among fans. And authors like Green, Patterson and Gladwell have influence over them. Green in particular has a rabid, loyal teen following with nearly 2.5 million Twitter followers, millions of YouTube fans and about 1.5 million on Facebook.
While this isn’t the first tense contract negotiation Amazan has had with a major publisher, it might be the first where it so risked its hard-won and well-deserved reputation among consumers. Not only is it harder for readers to get certain highly coveted books from the retailer in a quick and inexpensive fashion, but also some of the most influential authors are indicating their disapproval for Amazon. It could lead to customer defections, at the very least when it comes to buying Hachette books (Amazon market share among Hachette books has almost certainly plummeted: Books-A-Million and Walmart have both reported huge increases in sales of Hachette titles and Gladwell and Hachette author Michael Sullivan have reported massive declines).
If this calculation could be made, how many customers would Amazon be willing to give up to win this negotiation?
As of right now, books by Green, Patterson and Gladwell are all still available on Amazon.
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