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Literary Titans Side With Hachette Over Amazon

The new group, called Authors United, includes Salman Rushdie and Philip Roth.

Literary Titans Side With Hachette Over Amazon
[Photo: Flickr user Bradleypjohnson]

A small group of literary titans is banding together against a common threat: Amazon.

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The case involves the ongoing contract negotiations between Hachette and Amazon, in which the book publisher is accusing the online retailer of sabotaging book sales using a number of methods, including delaying shipments. (Some critics have called those claims into question.)

Now, a who’s who of famous writers–many of whom aren’t even represented by Hachette–have formed a group called Authors United and are asking the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for monopoly practices. Here’s the New York Times:

Andrew Wylie, whose client roster of heavyweights in literature is probably longer than that of any other literary agent, said he was asking all his writers whether they wanted to join the group, Authors United. Among those who have said yes, Mr. Wylie said in a phone interview from Paris, are Philip Roth, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul and Milan Kundera.

“It’s very clear to me, and to those I represent, that what Amazon is doing is very detrimental to the publishing industry and the interests of authors,” the agent said. “If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America.”

Now, that’s a bit over the top. And while Amazon is enormous, it will be tough to prove that it has a stranglehold over the book industry. In fact, there are a ton of other companies in the book business that still have a digital focus: There’s Barnes & Noble, which, despite a rough last couple of years is still in the green for 2014. And aside from the Nook, in the e-book space specifically, there’s Wattpad, a social writing community built for mobile that gets about 35 million unique visitors every month. And even Kobo is gaining marketshare on Kindle.

Indeed, your average reader probably won’t care whether a famous author gets a fair shake or not. Customers just want the lowest price possible, no matter who publishes it or where they order it from.

Read more at the New York Times.

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About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more

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