A panel on how to become a literary translator, organised by Amazon Publishing on 10 March 2018 within the Milan book fair ‘Tempo di Libri’ (http://www NULL.tempodilibri NULL.it/event/voglio-fare-il-traduttore-preparazione-opportunit-soddisfazioni-e-rischi-dellaltro-autore), was the occasion for Italian translators’ associations to follow up on a dialogue with AmazonCrossing about their contracts with translators.

This dialogue started in 2014, after a European campaign (https://nopeanuts NULL.wordpress NULL.com/2014/09/01/amazoncrossing-frankfurt/) involving VdÜ, Strade, ATLF and CEATL. A meeting between the parties was organized at the 2014 Frankfurt book fair. This meeting brought some improvements in AmazonCrossing’s standard translation contract and the parties left with an agreement to continue discussions as CEATL still didn’t deem it satisfactory. Besides asking to correct unfair clauses, CEATL required that, for each country in which AmazonCrossing planned to operate, its licensing agreement did not contain any provision below the working standards and practices of that country. The authors’ right working group gave AmazonCrossing detailed feedback on the new version of the contract but, in spite of Amazon’s claims of good will and further discussions (email and informal meetings at other book fairs), in October 2015 the European manager for Amazon Publishing, Dominic Myers, closed the dialogue by writing to CEATL’s president Holger Fock: ‘We are not able to reconsider your suggestions [about the contract] which relate to our Luxembourg-based corporate structure.’

Obviously, the question was closed for Amazon Publishing but not for CEATL and it was decided that each national organisation would be free to discuss the matter with translators, in blogs, print etc. giving their point of view. This is what Strade did in Italy, where AmazonCrossing doesn’t publish many books but has become more active in recent times. Indeed, this was its first public presentation to translators at an Italian book fair.

Strade’s representative Elisa Comito (right) hands open letter to AmazonCrossing’s editor Davide Radice (left)

At the end of the panel session, Elisa Comito, coordinator of the contractual team of Strade, handed an open letter addressed to the Italian representatives of AmazonCrossing, Alessandra Tavella and Davide Radice (for the full text (http://www NULL.traduttoristrade NULL.it/open-letter-to-amazoncrossing/) in English, click here). The letter, signed by Strade (http://www NULL.traduttoristrade NULL.it/), AITI (http://www NULL.aiti NULL.org/), ANITI (http://www NULL.aniti NULL.net) and TradInfo (http://www NULL.tradinfo NULL.org/), starts by mentioning good practice on AmazonCrossing’s part, i.e. writing the translator’s name on the book cover, but then goes on to raise questions about their contracts, such as: Do translators have the chance to negotiate their contract with AmazonCrossing? Do their contracts comply with Italian law, i.e. regarding terms and conditions of the transfer of rights? Are translators still forbidden to discuss their contracts and make public statements about their relation with AC? And, last but not least: is AmazonCrossing willing to re-open the dialogue in Italy?

Whether AmazonCrossing accepts the invitation to restart talks or not, Italian translators won’t lose: either they get better contracts, or theypublicly expose AmazonCrossing’s malpractice. The letter is signed by both Strade and Odei, the Italian association of independent publishers, asking AmazonCrossing to engage in fair competition with them and referring to the ‘Code of practice for a fair relationship between publishers and translators’.

We’ll keep you posted!

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