Amazon stops taking pre-orders for Disney films as Hachette price row intensifies

Freeze on Disney's DVD and Blu-ray titles comes after influential group of authors criticised Amazon for blocking sale of Hachette books

Amazon has frozen pre-orders on a number of Disney DVD and Blu-ray titles in what appears to be a contract dispute reminiscent of the online retailer's price row against Hachette.

Physical copies of forthcoming titles such as "Maleficent", starring Angelina Jolie, and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" were unavailable for order on Amazon on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported. However, digital copies were still available for pre-order.

The latest dispute comes as the war of words between Amazon and Hachette Book Group, the fourth largest publisher in the US, intensified over the weekend after a group of authors ran a two-page ad in the New York Times criticising its tactics.

The Authors United ad, signed by 900 writers including Stephen King, Donna Tartt and Barbara Kingsolver, argued that "no bookseller should block the sale of books" or "discourage customers from ordering" books.

Hachette chief executive Michael Pietsch also called on Amazon to "withdraw the sanctions" and described the strategy as "punitive" in a letter to readers, insisting that the online retailer is seeking to make a bigger profit at the expense of "authors, bricks and mortar bookstores".

Amazon has delayed deliveries and halted pre-orders on a number of books written by Hachette authors to protest the pricing of e-books, which the online retailer claims is too expensive. Amazon said it wants to slash e-book prices to $9.99, compared to $12.99 to $19.99.

Mr Pietsch insisted that most of Hachette books are already priced $9.99, adding that "we know by experience that there is not one appropriate price for all e-books, and that all e-books do not belong in the same $9.99 box".

Amazon has defended its tactics, arguing that e-books "should be less expensive" and lower prices will help both authors and publishers. In a letter posted on readersunited.com, it also accused Hachette, owned by France's Lagardère, of ignoring their concerns until it finally "took action to reduce sales of their titles" on its website.

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