Amazon.com is warring with publishing giant Hachette, placing the Seattle online retailer in the crosshairs of hundreds of well-known authors who don’t like the company’s hardball tactics.
But Amazon is doing its best to woo the literary elite through a super secret retreat in Santa Fe dubbed Campfire.
The New York Times and Santa Fe New Mexican both published stories this weekend on the event, noting the polarizing effect that Amazon is having on the publishing world. The New Mexican’s headline: “Local authors fume as Bezos holds secret Santa Fe retreat.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times started its blistering piece this way:
When Jeff Bezos tells writers to keep quiet, they obey.
Every fall, Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, hosts Campfire, a literary weekend in Santa Fe, N.M. Dozens of well-known novelists have attended, but they do not talk about the abundance of high-end clothing and other gifts, the lavish meals, the discussion under the desert stars by Neil Armstrong or the private planes that ferried some home.
The piece by David Streitfeld — dubbed “A writerly chill at Jeff Bezos’ fire” — notes that the battle with Hachette this year has brought a new air to the event and led to some “fracturing” of the secrecy that usually surrounds Campfire. Author James Patterson, who spoke at last year’s Campfire event and is published by Hachette, was not invited back this year and told the Times he wouldn’t have gone even if he were on the guest list. He ripped into Amazon earlier this year over its tactics in the publishing business.
Meanwhile, other authors contacted by the Times said they reacted with “something akin to terror” when asked about the private event, “lest Mr. Bezos be offended.”
Very little is known about Campfire, which has been held for several years in Santa Fe with past attendees including Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco, astronaut Neil Armstrong and director Werner Herzog.
Even those in Santa Fe don’t know much about Campfire, which is being held at the Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort and Spa this weekend. The New Mexican calls Campfire the equivalent of Northern California’s Bohemian Grove, pointing out that hotels, restaurants and everyone else associated with the event are sworn to secrecy.
“Nobody, but nobody in the know will talk on the record about Campfire, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ early autumn gathering of writers and other visionary types,” the paper notes.
Amazon’s culture certainly is not one of openness and transparency, even in its hometown of Seattle where it doesn’t disclose how many workers it has at its burgeoning campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood. Amazon also has refused requests to disclose information about the diversity of its workforce, even though many other large technology companies have done so.
At Amazon’s annual meeting earlier this year, Bezos disputed the notion that the company is secret.
“Our primary approach is, we talk when we have something to say,” Bezos said. “I never think of us as secretive, I think of us as mostly quiet.”