In another twist in the ongoing fight between Amazon and publisher Hachette, Amazon has either demonstrated its true spirit of support for authors and readers, or made the best PR move in the history of book publishing. Yesterday, in a King Solomon-like letter that has not been sent to the publisher but was sent to various experts and author organizations for feedback and weighing in, Amazon has offered to give Hachette’s authors 100% of the sale price from the ebook sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. The goal is to force both parties’ hands into resolving the matter, as this will cost both Amazon and Hachette their royalties.
Hachette (and several of the authors, in syrupy open letters) has maintained that Amazon doesn’t care about authors or the damage this contract negotiation does to the authors’ livelihoods, that it only cares about its bottom line. While that is even allowed to be true and is even accepted in the world of free market retail, Hachette has been equally unmoving in its inability to compromise on the terms they seek with Amazon, even to help their authors.
So Amazon has put its money where its mouth is. If the real victims in this battle are the authors, and food is being ripped out of their mouths while the grown-ups argue, then this should help them get by while the terms are still negotiated. Right?
Wrong. Amazon has already been accused of playing this up for publicity, and the offer hasn’t even been made to the publisher yet. The retailer is willing to forfeit any fees or costs associated with bookselling in order to give the full purchase price to authors (knowing full well that Hachette won’t make a dime on the sale either), yet that is not enough for those who froth over their anger towards the retail giant. The Author’s Guild has already (and characteristically) denounced the offer.
Interestingly, Amazon had also reportedly already offered to fund a pool (50% of which would come from Amazon, the other 50% from Hachette) to help see the authors through this difficult time. That offer was rejected.
The best part of this scenario is Hachette can’t possibly turn it down. What would be their logic, except to finally admit that their authors are just a commodity? Amazon has deftly demonstrated its true feelings for the authors who’ve made it what it is today, while also throwing open the door to show the rest of the world (namely, its critics) what publishers really believe.
Despite early and biased coverage of this proposal in news outlets such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, it’s GigaOm’s Laura Hazard Owen who has gone to the effort to make the letter available to readers.