Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Amazon Trickery

I replicate the blog written by Clare Sudbery for Bookarazzi:

Amazon has been removing the “buy button” from some of the Hachette Livre books and also removing some of their titles from promotional positions such as “Perfect Partner”, in order to apply pressure on them to give Amazon even better commercial terms than it presently receives.

Larger British book retailers already receive the most generous terms in the English-language world from publishers, including Hachette Livre. Of the “cake” represented by the recommended retail price of a general book, major retailers including Amazon already receive on average well over 50%. Despite these advantageous terms, Amazon seems each year to go from one publisher to another making increasing demands in order to achieve richer terms at the publishers' expense. (You may have read in the press a few weeks ago of Amazon’s penalties against Bloomsbury and its authors). If this continued, it would not be long before Amazon got virtually all of the revenue that is presently shared between author, publisher, retailer, printer and other parties. (Again, you may have read that in the USA Amazon has been demanding that it should take over the printing, initially of print-on-demand titles, dictating its own royalty terms to publishers and authors). Hachette Livre are politely but firmly saying that these encroachments need to stop now. Declining all additional terms demands is the approach that HL take with all major retailers, and it is particularly important in relation to Amazon.

Amazon has grown very rapidly since it launched and it now makes some 16% of all book sales in Britain. The creativity, value and range offered and the standards of service that have made Amazon so successful, are respected. At its present rate of growth, which was 30% last year, Amazon would become the largest bookseller in Britain in about three years. The retail market for book is not increasing and therefore much of this growth would inevitably come at the expense of “bricks and mortar” booksellers. This is of course not a criticism of Amazon, and no publisher can or should tell the public where to shop. However, it is a concern that more and more traditional booksellers are having to close their doors, with skilled individual booksellers losing their jobs, and this is due in part to Amazon’s aggressively low pricing on prominent titles. Therefore, despite their limited role in respect of these changes in the retail landscape, Hachette Livre are determined not to provide Amazon with further ammunition with which it could damage booksellers who offer a personal service, browsing facilities and other valuable benefits to the reading public.

Amazon’s reputation to date has been built on range, service and honest recommendations to customers. Their current actions represent reduced range and service together with distorted recommendations – effectively creating a breach of trust between Amazon and its customers, particularly its “Prime” customers who have paid to have free delivery on a comprehensive range of books."

Hachette Livre is a large umbrella organisation, which encompasses the following publishers:

Little, Brown Book Group (includes Abacus, Virago, Sphere, Piatkus, Orbit, Atom)
Orion Publishing Group (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Gollancz)
Headline Publishing Group
Hodder & Stoughton (includes Sceptre)
Hachette Children's Books (includes Franklin Watts, Orchard, Hodder, Wayland)
Hodder Education Group
John Murray
Octopus Publishing Group (includes Bounty, Cassel, Conran Octopus, Hamly, Gaia, Mitchell Beazley, Miller, Philips)
They also have subsidiaries in India, Aus, NZ...

This isn't the first time Amazon has used this tactic. Earlier this year Amazon.com removed Buy buttons from selected books of publishers who refused to switch their Print-on-demand publishing to Amazon's newly bought POD company (see Bookseller story here (http://tinyurl.com/3efuy5)). They really are bullies.

Amazon and the supermarkets have consistently been putting the squeeze on publishers in this way, making it harder and harder for independent publishers to operate, not to mention small bookshops (who don't have the same muscle and can't compete). The ultimate losers are the authors, who get a smaller and smaller slice of the pie. I got 70p per book with a cover price of £10.00. When books are sold at a discount, the author gets significantly less than that (percentages vary according to contract, but they're typically less than 10% of cover price).

Things you can do to help:

Contact Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/4skfzf)
Copy this post, or write your own, on your blog / website / via email
Boycott Amazon (alternative book sources: localbookshops.co.uk, abebooks.co.uk, bookdepository.co.uk, Waterstones.com, Play.com, actual physical bookshops, or where possible buy through authors' and publishers' own websites).
Write to newspapers
Contact the competition commission (email: info@cc.gsi.gov.uk This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )


Juxtabook said...

This is very interesting, thank you for posting it. Just a point: Abebooks is site where booksellers list their books, Abe does not have any books itself. Booksellers think about Abebooks like farmers think about Tescos. In fact I took my business (as a bookseller) to Amazon because I think Abe are actualy worse than Amazon. Alternatives are: Biblio, Biblion, ibooknet, Ukbookworld, BookRabbit. Bookrabbit is entirely new books, and they promise to under cut Amazon on the top 100,000 titles and offer free postage with no minimum purchase. I have no connection with Bookrabbit except thinking they have to be better than Amazon getting any bigger.

Elizabeth Baines said...

That's interesting. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Amazon are on the point of buying ABE.
BTW - as a point of interest, www.localbookshops.co.uk was set up to help independent bookshops compete with large online book sellers and does not actually supply books. We just give the public the option of ordering from their local 'bricks and mortar' shop.
Our main commercial activity is the provision of e-commerce sites to independent bookshopsm, so I have to declare an interest. However, registration with www.localbookshops.co.uk is free and is an attempt to provide a central online directory for traaditional bookshops.

Dave Gilbert

Elizabeth Baines said...

Thanks for this, Dave. Interesting and good to know