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Amazon Publishes Hachette CEO’s Email in Latest Salvo Over E-Book Pricing

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Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. David Ryder—Getty Images

One author called the move 'overtly divisive'

Updated at 2:05 p.m.

In its latest move in an escalating battle over e-book pricing, Amazon attacked book publisher Hachette in a strongly-worded letter Saturday which includes the Hachette CEO’s email address and encourages authors to contact him directly.

Amazon and Hachette have been locked in a duel over the pricing of e-books. Amazon argues their price should be lower, while Hachette’s holding out for higher prices. Hachette’s camp has also accused Amazon of making it more difficult for customers to find and buy books from publishers with which Amazon is negotiating new terms.

In its letter, the Seattle-based online retailer reiterated its case for lower e-book pricing, saying that because of the absence of shipping, handling and printing costs, “e-books can and should be less expensive.” On top of that, Amazon has argued that e-books are just 1% of the revenue of Hachette’s parent company, and that the company could agree to Amazon’s demands with little financial impact.

In its letter, Amazon compared e-books to the advent of paperback books, which it said aroused resistance from authors like George Orwell who ostensibly argued paperback books would ruin the industry. “Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment,” Amazon says in its letter.

(In fact, George Orwell was not opposed to paperback books, and Amazon’s letter quotes the 1984 author misleadingly, as the New York Times reports. Orwell also was ambivalent about lowering book prices, calling cheaper books a “disaster” for authors and publishers.)

Amazon’s note also urges authors to email Hatchette CEO Michael Pietsch with specific talking points and publicly disclosed Pietsch’s email address.

“We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices,” reads Amazon’s letter. “We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.”

One author who received the letter and has published e-books through Amazon spoke out against the company’s tactics.

“It’s overtly divisive, pitting authors against one another,” San Francisco-resident Ron Martinez told the Wall Street Journal of Amazon’s latest salvo. Martinez is the CEO of an e-book discoverability service. “It’s astonishingly poor form to publish an executive’s email.”

Amazon’s letter comes just after over nine hundred authors signed a separate message to Amazon calling on the company to stop blocking the sale of Hachette books. Literary icons Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King, Douglas Preston, Robert A. Caro, Junot Díaz, Malcolm Gladwell, Lemony Snicket (the pen name of Daniel Handler), Michael Chabon, Michael Lewis, and Jon Krakauer are just a smattering of the names who signed that note, the New York Times reports.

The authors’ letter, which also publicly discloses Jeff Bezos’ email address, is set to run as a full-page ad in the Times this weekend.

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