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More than 900 authors sign angry, open letter to Amazon

900 authors lend names to public petition urging Amazon to settle dispute with Hachette

More than 900 authors have signed an open letter to Amazon, charging the online retailer with engaging in “selective retaliation” against writers in its dispute with the Hachette publishing group.

The writer Douglas Preston began circulating the letter in June, and the signatories soon adopted the name Authors United. The letter is scheduled to appear as a full-page ad in this Sunday’s edition of the New York Times.

“As writers -- most of us not published by Hachette -- we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want,” the letter says. The full text is available on the Authors United webpage.

The signatories include bestselling authors such as Stephen King, John Grisham, Anna Quindlen and Chelsea Cain, as well as first-time authors. James Patterson and Malcolm Gladwell, two authors who have recently spoken up Amazon's practices, are signatories. 

The many novelists include Barbara Kingsolver, Jonathan Lethem, Jane Smiley, Janet Fitch and Donna Tartt. There are also nonfiction writers including Henry Louis Gates Jr., Lawrence Wright, Cheryl Strayed and Robert Caro; several poets have signed, including Carol Muske-Dukes, the former poet laureate of California.

The letter outlines a list of grievances, including “boycotting Hachette authors” by refusing to accept preorders on their books, slowing delivery of the books of Hachette authors, and suggesting on authors’ pages that buyers “might prefer a book from a non-Hachette author instead.”

“Many of us have supported Amazon since it was a struggling start-up,” the letter says. “This is no way to treat a business partner. … Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business.”

Amazon has said Hachette is using its authors as “human shields” in the contract dispute.

In a note last month to his fellow scribes, Preston said Authors United should prepare for a long fight and highlighted the variety of writers who had signed the letter.

“I would particularly note that many debut authors have courageously signed this letter,” Preston wrote, according to a report in the Bookseller. “Amazon's recent attempt to dismiss us as a bunch of rich, bestselling authors trying only to protect our income is not going to work.”

Hector tweets about literary topics as @TobarWriter

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