Amazon and publishing company Hachette remain in negotiations after a very public brawl over ebook pricing, and Amazon’s pulling out some down and dirty trick to win its battle, including jacking up Hachette book prices. Amazon’s latest gambit is more carrot than stick: Amazon executive David Naggar sent a letter to a number of Hachette authors proposing that they keep 100 per cent of their sales while the dispute persists.
Naggar laid the blame on Hachette for stalled negotiations:
We agree that authors are caught in the middle while these negotiations drag on, and we’re particularly sensitive to the effect on debut and midlist authors. But 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.
And then he laid out Amazon’s proposal to give 100 per cent of the sales price directly to the authors, causing both Amazon and Hachette to lose all potential profits until they reached an agreement.
Is this sincere? Naggar admitted that Amazon hasn’t actually offered this deal to Hachette yet…and Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson thinks it’s 100 per cent bogus. “If Amazon wants to have a constructive conversation about this, we’re ready to have one at any time,” she wrote the New York Times in an email. “But this seems like a short-term solution that encourages authors to take sides against their publishers. It doesn’t get authors out of the middle of this — we’re still in the middle. Our books are at the center of this struggle.”
Amazon has already acknowledged that it’s messing with Hachette until the publishing company acquiesces. The 100 per cent sales might sound like a sweet deal for Hachette’s authors, but the publishing company is in this slog because it’s trying to protect its interests — and those of its authors — from Amazon. This letter is intended to sway Hachette authors onto Amazon’s side, but it’s dangling a short-term benefit while glossing over the root of the problem.