Protests against Amazon's e-book pricing strategy have crossed the pond after a group of German-language authors signed a letter criticising the online retailer for “taking hostage authors” in a dispute with publishing group Bonnier.
The letter, signed by nearly 1,200 writers, including Nobel prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, claimed Amazon is carrying out a boycott of Bonnier authors by delaying deliveries and withdrawing titles from its recommending reading lists to force the Swedish publisher to accept its terms.
"In the past few months, Bonnier authors have been boycotted and their books no longer held in stock," the letter read. "The delivery of the books is being subjected to a go-slow, false information is given about their availability, and the authors' names no longer appear on Amazon's recommended lists."
The writers insisted they do not want to take sides in the dispute but urged the online retailer to stop "taking hostage authors". They also called on readers to write directly to Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder, and the head of Amazon Germany, Ralf Kleber, to share their views.
The letter comes after the German trade association filed a complaint with the competition watchdog arguing that Amazon abused its leading position on the German market for e-books using what amounts to blackmail and coercion to secure a discount from the German subsidiary of Bonnier.
The dispute is reminiscent of the on-going battle between Amazon and Hachette, the fourth biggest publishing group in America, over the price of e-books . In a similar move, the online retailer has delayed deliveries and halted pre-orders on a number of books written by Hachette authors.
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, which is owned by France's Lagardère, of ignoring their concerns until it finally "took action to reduce sales of their titles".
But Hachette chief executive Michael Pietsch has branded Amazon’s strategy as "punitive", insisting that the online retailer is seeking to make a bigger profit at the expense of "authors, bricks and mortar bookstores", adding that some e-books do not belong in the $9.99 price range Amazon wants.