Authors United takes its case to Amazon's board of directors

Authors United, who have collectively sold more than a billion books, appeal to Amazon's board for a change

More than 1,000 writers acting as Authors United have signed a letter to be delivered to the 10 members of Amazon's corporate board. One of those board members has already gotten a letter from the group -- that's Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, the recipient of the first Authors United letter.

In its second letter, sent Monday, Authors United pleads with the board members "to exercise your governance and put an end to the sanctioning of books" in Amazon's negotiations with publisher Hachette.

Since May, Amazon has implemented strategies to make it difficult to purchase Hachette books from its site. Those strategies include barring pre-orders of Hachette books, artificially delaying shipments and promoting books by other publishers to interested readers.

Amazon and Hachette are understood to be in a contract dispute that involves the retail and wholesale price of e-books.

Though some of Authors United signatories are published by Hachette, like James Patterson and Malcolm Gladwell, most are not. Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jennifer Egan, Edwidge Danticat, Lee Child and many more are published by other houses.

"We are literary novelists, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, and poets; thriller writers and debut and midlist authors. We are science fiction and travel writers; historians and newspaper reporters; textbook authors and biographers and mystery writers. We have written many of your children's favorite stories," the letter explains. "Collectively, we have sold more than a billion books. Amazon's tactics have caused us profound anguish and outrage."

Perhaps board members like Tom A. Alberg of the Madrona Venture Group and William Gordon of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers will be swayed by the authors' argument that "publishers provide venture capital for ideas."

The long letter takes care to point out that "we are not against Amazon," yet the group wants the company's practices regarding Hachette to change.

"We are confident that you, as an Amazon board member, prize books and freedom of expression as much as we do," it reads. "Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand. But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company's fine reputation last?"

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