October 2, 2014

Canadian authors get caught in Amazon-Hachette dispute


Canadian authors aren't happy with Amazon

Canadian authors are giving a big thumbs down to Amazon. Image via Shutterstock

As the Amazon-Hachette dispute rolls on, we’ve been covering the plight of American authors, and how through initiatives like Authors United writers are speaking up against Amazon and its bad behaviour. But spare a thought for the Canadian authors who have found themselves embroiled in the disagreement, despite being north of the border.

David Bezmozgis is one such author. The Globe and Mail reports that Bezmozgis, a Toronto author who is published by Little, Brown and Co., an imprint of Hachette, discovered that American readers would have to wait “2 to 3 weeks” to receive his book from Amazon. Midway through his US tour, and with no books available on Amazon, he told The Globe and Mail, “As an author, you want your books available, that’s as simple as it gets. And to find yourself in the middle of this dispute – it’s not a good place to be.” On Twitter he advised readers, “To find the book in the US, I suggest your local indie bookstore…”.

But Canadian authors do appear to be slightly better buffered than their American counterparts. As The Globe and Mail reports, “Hachette does not operate a publishing arm in Canada; it only distributes international titles”. It isn’t clear whether as a distributer rather than a publisher, Hachette can currently get away with more in its relationship with Amazon, but it seems like it.

This author-distributor relationship, as opposed to the much closer author-publisher ties, also means that Canadian authors do not currently feel as implicated as American authors. This is reflected in the make-up of Authors United; according to The Globe and Mail, out of the 900 authors that signed the Authors United open letter to Amazon in The New York Times, only a dozen were Canadian.

Claire Cameron, another Canadian writer, whose books are available to buy on Amazon, but at full price, argues that the dispute “doesn’t feel immediate.” She thinks this is to do with the fact that Amazon is not as dominant in Canada as in America.  “It’s one of those things that makes me appreciate where we live,” she says. Bestselling author Emma Donoghue told the paper:

I assume it’s bad news, so prefer not to inquire. In a general way I am firmly on the side of my publishers and dislike Amazon; the one change I’ve made is that since the dispute began I’ve finally managed to wean myself off buying books from Amazon.

Whatever’s happening, it’s clear the Amazon-Hachette dispute is leaking out of America and having repercussions further afield. Canadian authors are noticing, and are only too glad to be turning away from Amazon, and standing in support of traditional publishing. It will be interesting to see whether more Canadian names join the existing dozen on the Authors United list in the coming weeks.




Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.