I’ve been doing some research on how we would go about ordering copies of Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer mystery books if we wanted to. Here’s how it breaks down:
So that it doesn’t feel as if I’m picking on any current, living author for any reason, let’s use one of the reissues of an Ed McBain novel, The Mugger. This was his 2nd book in his long-running 87th Precinct series, first published in 1956. So keep in mind that there have been used copies of this title around for 55 years.
Amazon’s new mystery imprint, Thomas & Mercer, will release their edition of the book in December of this year, 2011. Try as I could, I could not find a cover price for their edition of The Mugger. But it seems likely that all of their Thomas & Mercer releases will have the same cover price. That is $14.95.
They do list a Kindle version. It seems a little odd the way they show this but they list the e-book as being $9.99 but they’re offering it at $4.99 – a 64% discount. Since they’re the only ones selling the Kindle version, it seems odd that they’re discounting something that only they can sell. Perhaps it is a matter of them trying to start with a price close to what other publishers put on their books so as to maintain the fiction that they’re playing in the same game. Otherwise, why not just price the e-book at $4.99 and forego the higher ‘list’ price and the discount? Odd.
With the initial announcement about the start of Thomas & Mercer, Amazon promoted four books: one by John Rector, one by Kyle Mills, one by D.M Annechino, and one by Blake Crouch and J.A. Konrath. Let’s take this last one for no particular reason. (From what I’ve seen, the math is the same for all four books, as well as the author X's book, the release that began all of this.)
The book, Stirred, is listed at $14.95. I’m not sure when exactly it is being released as one page says Nov. 22, 2011 and another says Feb. 21, 1212. Both pages, however, show the same math: All of these three titles are being promoted at a 32% discount: you pay just $10.17 if you pre-order. Can’t say just now if that will be the normal discount and sale price. We’ll have to see how that shakes out when the book is actually printed and released.
The Kindle version of Stirred carries a list price of $9.99 though, when you order it, you pay just $2.99, an 80% discount. (Actually, though the Amazon page says 80%, it is really 70% - a small matter because of the steepness of the discount.) If you bypass the printed paperback ($14.95) and buy the e-book ($2.99), you save nearly 85%. This raises the question of why print the book at all? If your answer is so that shops like this one can order, stock, and sell copies – think about this: I’ve looked all over the Amazon site and their Thomas & Mercer stuff and I find nowhere any information provided to tell an outside bookseller how to order copies.
In the lingo of the retail world, if this bookshop were to order copies in order to sell them, the publisher is known as the ‘vendor’. They wholesale the books to us as an ‘account’. This is how it works with regular publishers as well as wholesalers. I can find nothing on the Amazon website that explains how this bookshop would open an account and order books if we wanted to stock them or have them for an author event. If they wanted it to be something that is easy to accomplish, they’d make it simple to find as publishers and wholesalers will. I have to assume that there is no way to set up a wholesaler account, and it then follows that we would have to conclude then that we’re to order them like you would and get the same discount that you would: 32%.
If Amazon is interested in other booksellers carrying, promoting and selling their publications, why undercut those sales? The obvious point is that they do not want to share the sales; they make it nonsensical to buy from anyone else. If that is so, please explain to me why someone would buy the book from us at full cover price when they can order it from Amazon and pay the same price that Amazon is asking us to pay?
Yet if we determine that it is not financially reasonable for us to do order their books, we’re branded as banning books...