The "5-Year-Old" Talks Back: Amazon Posts for "Readers United"

Author Douglas Preston told the NY Times last Friday his conversations with Russ Grandinetti have been "like talking to a 5-year-old" -- and, as has been widely reported since, the company's latest response, this time to Preston's "Authors United" efforts, are posts aimed at "Readers United." The equivalent of "click here if you like lower prices," their latest efforts are expanded versions of the most recent Kindle Forum post (complete with the same math). The essence is the same: Amazon is right, and when Hachette, authors or the media say otherwise, they are wrong.

Amazon has added the fiery language the company provided recently to the Times, asserting that "Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices." Which overlooks the inverse: During the Apple trial, the government contended that publishers never could have or would have tried to impose an agency model (legal in and of itself) without coordinated action. Hachette trying to stick to agency proves otherwise -- and shows how hard Amazon resists letting publishers choose, individually, how to sell their product in the marketplace.

While "Readers United" is a public web page post, Amazon popularized the message by sending the same post to the many (hundreds of thousands, if not millions) of KDP authors via an email titled "Important Kindle Request." They recommended that people email Michael Pietsch (whose email was included in Amazon's letter) and provided a script that includes, "Remind them that authors are not united on this issue."

Which raises all sorts of interesting points. This is not, in fact, readers uniting, but Amazon urging people to action. But the people they have appealed to are not necessarily readers -- they do not seem to have sent a message to all of their ebook customers -- but rather self-published authors. It remains unclear why the KDP army should care about Hachette's pricing strategies, except for a general antipathy to anything from traditional publishing, and as Mike Shatzkin points out, it ought to be in self-published authors' interests to preserve a price distinction between their books and Big Five books, to avoid direct competition. So Amazon Uniting Their Authors might be a more appropriate name, albeit a longer URL. In doing so, Amazon is acting more like the direct publishing competitor they are than as a retailer acting on behalf of customers.

Separately, Pietsch has started replying to those who have written him. That is covered here.

And in other Amazon news, the company is also locked in a terms dispute with Disney, as upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray editions of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", "Malificent", and other Disney titles are not available for pre-order.