On Feb 21st, fantsy author Jim C. Hines wrote a post about how Amazon has been monkeying with the prices of e-books, which affects the amount the authors get from the sales. As he points out, if a pubisher puts a printed book on sale, his share of the purchase of the book is based on the cover price (if a publisher cuts the price of the book they make less on the sale of the book and the author still gets their full share). According to the contract Amazon has with authors, they can change (i.e. lower) the price of an e-book at will and the author’s cut will be a consistant percentage of that price. He points out that his income from royalties was therefore lower. Royalties with Amazon are not based on list price – as with print publishers – but on the sale price.
On Feb 23rd, it was announced that after a major distributor refused to give Amazon new, much lower terms on items purchased, Amazon removed all Kindle versions of books distributed by IPG. [A little explanation here: major publisher – such as Random House or Penguin – distribute their own books and sometimes some smaller, ‘client’ publishers. Then there are distributors – Independent Publisher’s Group is one of them – that sell and ship for a large number of smaller publishers. We don’t order Bitter Lemon books directly from Bitter Lemon, we order them from a distributor.] IPG – Independent Publisher’s Group - is therefore the main way these small publishers to easily get their books out to shops like this one. Theoretically, everyone gets the same discounts so that there is a level playing field and everyone gets the same amount of money on the sale of one of IPG’s books, or e-books. Amazon wanted ‘more favorable terms’, which means they wanted a higher discount so that they could make more money on sales of IPG books. For Amazon to keep a larger percentage of the sale of IPG titles, IPG and its authors would make less money. IPG said no and Amazon, in retaliation, removed ALL of the e-books, depriving not only IPG of e-book sales but all of their authors as well.
On Feb 24, author Jim Hanas, disgusted with Amazon’s treatment of IPG, removed the buttons to buy his books from Amazon from his own website. He had a balance on an Amazon gift card and used it to buy a Kobo Touch e-reader.
On Feb 24, Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson detailed his reactions to the Amazon/IPG battle, drawing paralells to the fight Amazon waged against MacMillan two years ago and Melville’s own battle in “2004 about what we thought — and our attorney confirmed — were illegally high discounts. We refused to pay, and our buy buttons disappeared overnight.”
Later that day, Johnson wrote more, detailing international reaction by authors, publishers and in the media to Amazon’s removal of IPG e-books. (By the way, Johnson is one publisher who has rebutted the argument put forth by Nancy Pearl and her agent that Nancy’s reissue program was offered to every publisher and none wanted it. Johnson has written that he, at Melville House, was not approached about the plan.)
Here’s another small independent bookshop that is waging its own education battle with the public about Amazon, and why it is important to support independent businesses. They make their points succinctly and sharply.
On that same day, Feb 27th, O’Reilly Media Joe Wikert wrote about how he, too, is ‘kicking the Amazon habit’ due to their strong-arm practices. This appears to be a personal decision. He doesn’t mention anything about O’Reilly Publications’ own books availability through Amazon. The title of his post is "Why I’m Breaking the Amazon Habit and Why You Should Too!"
There is one issue that no one seems to be addressing.
Amazon proponents say that Amazon is bringing the world a river (yes, that's why it is named Amazon) of affordable material and that has to be good for everyone. Well, yes, they do make things affordable. Now. But, after they've run other publishers and other booksellers out of business and have a virtual - if not actual - monopoly on publishing and bookselling, do you really expect them to continue to discount so deeply? If there is no competition, do you really believe that they won't raise the prices on everything, elimiating discounts, slashing the percentages given to authors? If they're the only game in town, what is to stop them? At some point, if Wall Street is to continue supporting them, they'll have to start showing profits to shareholders. To do that, they'll have to take it out of the hide of those who buy from them and sell to them.
That's when you will find yourself living in the company's town, having nowhere to shop but at the company store, playing and paying by the company's rules.