Handelsblatt reports that 100 German authors, including Ingrid Noll, Nele Neuhaus, Eva Rossmann, and Fred Breinersdorfer, have collectively signed a letter accusing Amazon of taking books hostage.
The letter makes accusations similar to the points raised by Authors United in its NY Times advert. More specifically, the German authors accuse Amazon of manipulating recommendation lists and delaying the delivery of books.
Update: Boersenblatt has posted the text of the letter. it is in German, of course, and it is very similar in tone to the open letter from Authors United.
The news of this letter is just breaking today, so I can’t verify any details which they might have to back up the claims, but it does appear that this group has broad support.
“We need to educate the reader that the manipulation of recommendation lists and the delayed delivery of books whose publishers fight back against Amazon, the Amazon include everyday,” said Regula Venske, general secretary of the PEN Zentrum (the German chapter of Pen International, a writer’s association).
Amazon is in conflict with publishers in Germany similar to their ongoing contract dispute with Hachette Book Group here in the US. News broke in May that Amazon was in a bitter contract renegotiation (or at least that is how it was framed in the leaks) with a German subsidiary of the Swedish publisher Bonnier.
According to German sources at the time, Amazon was seeking better terms for their ebook contract, and as part of their negotiating technique Amazon was reportedly reducing the number of copies of Bonnier titles they carry in their warehouses.
I haven’t seen any new news on the Bonnier situation since late June, when the German book industry trade group Börsenverein filed an antitrust complaint against Amazon, alleging that Amazon was a monopoly. I’ve been told that complaint will likely go nowhere.
It’s not clear if the German authors have any evidence to support their claims, but if they do it will be a first. Amazon has been repeatedly accused of delaying Hachette titles and Bonnier titles as part of its contract negotiations with each publisher, but so far as I know no one has shown that the shipments have actually been delayed (as opposed to the items simply being out of stock). And as for the claim that Amazon was manipulating recommendations, I have never seen any evidence that was more substantial than industry gossip. (To be fair, those with first-hand info are probably not allowed to speak to me, a blogger.)
image by maltman23