Authors United, which counts bestselling writers including Malcolm Gladwell, Donna Tartt and Stephen King among its supporters, is soliciting signatures for a letter to William J. Baer, assistant US attorney-general for antitrust, according to Douglas Preston, the Hachette writer who started the group.The letter will ask the justice department’s antitrust division to “examine Amazon’s business practices”, Mr Preston wrote in an appeal to authors seen by the Financial Times. The appeal was circulated by the literary agent Andrew Wylie, who has criticised the retailer.
So after not taking sides in taking out a $104,000 advert in the NYTimes, and after not taking sides in sending a letter to Amazon's board of directors (and then revising it so it was even more insulting), Authors United is now going to not take sides by calling for Amazon to be investigated for antitrust violations.
According to Doug Preston, it's strictly going to be a legal request. "It’s not an emotional or a populist appeal, it’s simply citing points of law," Mr Preston said, adding that he had been in touch with the Justice Dept. "They are expecting this letter and they have told me that they welcome any information we can provide."
I for one am looking forward to that letter; if Authors United's grasp of antitrust law matches their grasp of marketing/propaganda then the letter will prove to be deeply entertaining. Oh, there won't be any valid legal arguments, but that is going to be what makes it so much fun to read.
I plan to file a FOIA request for this letter, but I doubt that will be necessary. We will probably be able to read it on the Authors United website.
Tell me, does anyone else think it's time to simply come out and call AU for what it is, a publishing industry astroturfing group?
They're clearly taking a side, and they are arguing a position which authors have at best a remote interest in.
If anything, an author advocacy group should be pointing at how Amazon deals directly with authors and critiquing it, a topic which AU has ignored. I would also suggest that an author advocacy group should be complaining about how publishers treat authors.
By remaining silent on these topics while interjecting in the affairs of Amazon and publishers, Authors United (or The Authors Guild, for that matter) confirms just which masters they are actually serving.
image by Gabriel 'Briel' Rocha