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Bezos' e-mail protest deluges Authors Guild


April 16, 2002

In response to a plea from Amazon.com head Jeff Bezos, thousands of e-mails have been sent to the Authors Guild protesting the guild's call for writers to remove links on their Web sites to the online retailer.

The Authors Guild has criticized Amazon's policy of offering used editions of new books, noting that neither authors nor publishers receive royalties, which they do on new books that also sell for more than the used editions. The guild e-mailed members last week and urged them to sever their Internet ties to Amazon -- links allowing those who visit authors' Web pages to go quickly to Amazon's Web site to buy the author's book by clicking on the link.

The guild represents more than 8,000 published authors, although less than 10 percent are believed to have Web sites.

Bezos answered late Sunday by e-mailing individuals and stores around the country who had sold used books through Amazon.com. He asked them to defend Amazon's contention that used books actually help authors by bringing in new readers who otherwise couldn't afford to buy a book.

"As you may have read in the newspapers over the past few days, we've been criticized by the leadership of a small but vocal organization because we sell used books on our Web site," Bezos wrote.

"We've found that our used books business does not take business away from the sale of new books. In fact, the opposite has happened."

Bezos called for supporters to e-mail the Authors Guild, using a "polite and civil tone."

According to Amazon.com spokesman Bill Curry, more than 4,000 e-mails had been sent to the Authors Guild by yesterday afternoon.

Paul Aiken, the guild's executive director, said the figure was probably accurate but that the organization's position would not change.

"Bezos has misrepresented us," Aiken said. "We don't assert all used book sales hurt the industry. We say that Amazon's particular way of marketing used books is harmful for authors and for publishers."

Neither side has produced numbers backing its argument.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Copyright © 1999-2002 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


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