The ongoing contract dispute between Amazon (AMZN) and book publisher Hachette has been described as a fight between two business titans, but now the retailer is trying to win over the little guy: The authors stuck in the middle.
Amazon sent a letter to some Hachette authors offering them 100 percent of the sales price of every Hachette ebook sold while the dispute lasts. The letter said that both Amazon and Hachette would "forgo all revenue and profit from the sale of every ebook until an agreement is reached."
But while that might seem like a friendly peace offering from the retailing giant, the offer isn't getting a welcome reception from some writers.
Why? First off, while Amazon may be genuinely looking out for the authors whose books are delayed or unavailable, it's unlikely the deal would ever materialize. That's because Hachette would have to agree to it, and the publisher on Tuesday called the idea "suicidal." To some, including best-selling writer Scott Turow, Amazon's offering looks like a PR ploy, rather than a genuine attempt to alleviate the hit to writers' wallets.
"It's a transparent attempt to drive a wedge between me and my publisher, and it only serves to further erode my trust in Amazon," Will McIntosh, the author of science fiction books such as "Defenders," wrote to CBS MoneyWatch in an email. He said he hadn't seen the offer, but wouldn't accept it.
In response to Hachette's description of the offer as "suicidal," Amazon called it "baloney."
"Hachette is part of a $10 billion global conglomerate. It wouldn't be 'suicide,'" Amazon said in a statement emailed to CBS MoneyWatch. "They can afford it. What they're really making clear is that they absolutely want their authors caught in the middle of this negotiation because they believe it increases their leverage."
The retailer added that its offer is "sincere," and urged Hachette to accept.
Some authors said the offer put them in a tough position, given it would require them to enter a contentious relationship with their publisher.
"They're asking us authors to load Amazon's guns for them," best-selling author Doug Preston told the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos.
Preston, the author of novels such as "The Codex" and, with Lincoln Child, "The Cabinet of Curiosities," told the newspaper that he wouldn't accept such a deal, calling it "blood money." He has some skin in the game, given that taking the offer would earn him millions, he said.
But he added, "I would never turn around and do something like that to them."
In an emailed statement, Amazon said, "Easy for him to say. He's rich and already successful. He can opt out of the offer for himself if he wants, but he shouldn't stand in the way of debut and midlist authors benefiting from the offer."
Preston has also written a letter that's gained the support of hundreds of writers, including Stephen King and Nora Roberts, that asks readers to write to Bezos and ask that Amazon resolve the contract dispute with Hachette without hurting writers.
And in the meantime, as both sides issue volleys and complaints, Amazon still is delaying delivery of books published by Hachette, as well as asking the full cover price, and there's no sign of when the dispute will come to an end.