Amazon tries to turn up pressure on Hachette with overture to authors

Associated Press

Amazon's squabble with publishing company Hachette is growing increasingly public.

The online retailer sent a letter to some Hachette authors floating an idea that Amazon and Hachette could cede all sale proceeds from e-books to authors as long as the dispute lasts, in order to speed up the negotiating process.

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Amazon is in contentious negotiations with Hachette, reportedly over e-book prices. Amazon has slowed shipments, reduced discounts and removed pre-order buttons for numerous Hachette releases as they negotiate.

Those tactics have sparked an outcry from authors. Last week hundreds of authors, including Stephen King, Nora Roberts and Donna Tartt, added their names to an online letter criticizing Amazon.com for restricting access to works published by Hachette Book Group.

Now, Amazon is trying to curry favor with authors with its new proposal. The catch is that Hachette would have to go along with the plan.

"Hachette's unresponsiveness and unwillingness to talk until we took action put us in this position, and unless Hachette dramatically changes their negotiating tempo, this is going to take a really long time," stated the letter, sent by David Naggar, vice president of Kindle content. He proposed that both Hachette and Amazon give up any revenue from e-book sales, and instead give 100 percent of the sales directly to authors.

Hachette did not respond to the offer directly, but said in a statement that it had received a brief proposal from Amazon and is continuing to "negotiate in good faith."

"We invite Amazon to withdraw the sanctions they have unilaterally imposed, and we will continue to negotiate in good faith and with the hope of a swift conclusion," the company said in a statement.

Amazon, in turn responded by saying that Hachette is "stalling and refusing to negotiate, despite the pain caused to their authors. Our offer is sincere."

Amazon shares rose $4.60 to $328.41 in midday trading. The stock is down about 19 percent since the beginning of the year.