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Amazon founder holds SF retreat

SANTA FE – Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is holding court with a couple of hundred people at his annual retreat dubbed Campfire this weekend at Santa Fe’s Bishop’s Lodge.

BEZOS: At center of issue with Hachette

BEZOS: At center of issue with Hachette

Bezos, an Albuquerque native, has held the event previously in Santa Fe to meet with writers. This year, it is taking place against the backdrop of a bitter public dispute with many authors – led by novelist Douglas Preston, who happens to live in Santa Fe.

Bezos has been at the center of the dispute with the group Authors United, spearheaded by Preston, over alleged sanctions imposed by Amazon against the Hachette Book Group over the price of Hachette authors’ ebooks sold online. Amazon has made it harder for its customers to buy Hachette books.

Authors United has just penned and sent a letter to the Amazon.com Inc. board of directors and to Bezos, signed by hundreds of authors, urging the board “to exercise your governance and put an end to the sanctioning of books, which are the very foundation of our culture and democracy.”

The letter continues, “Do you as an Amazon director approve of this policy of sanctioning books? … Amazon has other negotiating tools at its disposal; it does not need to inflict harm on some of the very authors who helped it become one of the largest retailers in the world.”

Amazon public relations did not respond to a request for comment.

The authors signing the latest letter to Bezos along with Preston include New Mexico writers Anne Hillerman (a Journal restaurant reviewer), Michael McGarrity, Peggy Orenstein and Rudolfo Anaya.

One Santa Fe author suggested in an email to Preston that perhaps local writers should picket the event. “I think our response needs to be more measured,” Preston said on Wednesday.

The email said “select authors, artists, musicians, dancers, entertainers, etc.” will be there “just to get together and talk about things … I understand the goodie bag is terrific.”

But don’t bother dropping by. “I understand the lodge is ‘guarded’ against intruders,” the email states.

A Journal reporter’s call to Bishop’s Lodge in an effort to reach Bezos ended up with a worker who said as far as he knew Bezos had arrived Thursday and “they have all kinds of things planned.”

The New York Times reported on the event Saturday. The Times’ report said:

“Campfire this year is being held under the conditions of utmost secrecy, as usual. Mr. Bezos has rented the entire Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort and Spa, which is set on 450 acres a little north of Santa Fe. If you call the front desk seeking a particular guest, the operator will not ring the room or even take a message. There are guards at the front gate to prevent the curious from getting too far.”

The Times report says that, in the past, “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.”

But this year, “Some repeat Campfire attendees who have supported Hachette in the dispute say they were not invited this year. Others say they are having second thoughts about going. The event has become as divisive as the fight.”

At the Santa Fe Municipal Airport, “there are a considerable number of private jets,” airport manager Francey Jesson told the Journal. “They came in for some sort of retreat,” she said, but she did not know anything more.

The Times report provided this description of past Campfires: “There are impressive dinners, accompanied by live music. There is horseback riding, skeet shooting and lazing by the pool. In the mornings, there are formal talks on highbrow topics. One guest fondly recalled that the swag included down vests, fleeces, shoulder bags and small suitcases to carry all the loot home. Getting back to mundane reality was postponed for the attendees who took one of the private jets. (Others say they took scheduled flights.)”

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