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German authors protest to Amazon over e-book price war

More than 1,000 German-language writers have signed a petition protesting against the methods used by online retailer Amazon in its e-book price battle with Scandinavian publishing house Bonnier.

BERLIN: More than 1,000 German-language writers have signed a petition protesting against the methods used by online retailer Amazon in its e-book price battle with Scandinavian publishing house Bonnier. Taking their cue from US writers involved in a similar protest over Amazon's e-book dispute with Hachette, nearly 1,200 authors signed an open letter in which they accused Amazon of "taking writers hostage" in its pricing battle.

"In the past few months, Bonnier authors are being boycotted and their books no longer held in stock," said the letter, which was signed by, among others, Austrian Nobel literature prize laureate Elfriede Jelinek and the head of the German PEN writers' association, Regula Venske.

"The delivery of the books is being subjected to a go-slow; false information is given about their availability; and the authors' names no longer appear on Amazon's recommended lists," the letter complained. "Amazon has no right to take hostage authors who are not directly involved in the conflict," it said.

Neither Bonnier nor Amazon has commented publicly on their pricing dispute. Bonnier is a major player in German publishing, with a stable of houses including Ullstein, Carlsen and Piper.

The authors asked readers to write directly to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos or the head of Amazon Germany, Ralf Kleber, "to make their views known about the latest blackmailing methods" employed by the online retail giant. At the end of June, Germany's book industry filed a complaint to the country's competition watchdog about Amazon's use of "blackmail" to gain discounts from publishers.