Amazon rude? Surely not?

Sun 31 Jan 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | 6 Comments | Posted by: Gavin

Er, yes, they’re at it again. Yet another reason we don’t have Amazon links on our site: who wants to deal with people whose sense of fairplay is somewhere in the vicinity of might=right?

First we’d like to point out that while Amazon dropped the buy links for all the MacMillan US titles from their site this weekend all of those books are still available on Powells, Indiebound,, etc., etc.

Amazon has been ok for us with ebooks: they use DRM and the books are tied into one device so it doesn’t seem like the best way to buy a book, but others think differently. At the moment we give them an ebook price (say $15.95 on a new hardcover book) and they pay roughly half of that even if they sell the book at $9.99. No strong-arming there. (Yet? Maybe because we’re not attempting to charge $24?)

We price the ebook editions of new hardcovers at $15.95 then drop them to $9.95 if/when a paperback comes out. If anyone wants to argue about these prices and claim that there are no costs to making ebooks please feel free to come on over and do the work for free. We are a small press and to format and upload different files to Fictionwise/, Google, Follett, Amazon, Scribd, (& our new site this spring) etc., is not a quick task. Nor is the information gathering for royalties—a bit of a  stinker, that. Although made somewhat easier with our nice generous 50/50 ebook royalties.

But back to the gorilla: Amazon sold a couple of thousand copies of our paper books last year—and we just don’t care. They’ve negotiated horribly high discounts with publishers and distributors so that we, for example, receive about 34%* of the retail price of a book sold on their site. (So $5.44 on a $16 paperback to pay the printer, freight, author, artist, ads, etc., etc. Yep, that math works out well.)

When indie bookstore orders from our distributor we receive about 40% of retail ($6.40 on that mythical $16 paperback). That 6%/$1 a book sure adds up—only a couple of thousand dollars over the year for us (although it would be nice…); it adds up to millions to larger publishers.

Amazon have a pretty typical huge corporation business model: make low low prices happen by twisting the supplier until they break. Then twist some more. Maybe they’re worried that won’t work any more? Maybe they’re worried about their closed-ecosystem ebook reader versus the Apple iPad/iBookstore/Nook/Que/every other reader? Maybe they’re just seeing what the other big houses will do once they see that Amazon is willing to be a weekend berserker? Maybe that’s just the way corporate capitalism is supposed to work? Blink.

(Via many sites! Esp. Gwenda, Kelly, NYT Bits, Scalzi, & more.)

* Since we’re not telling you the split between their discount, their mandatory marketing fee, the “free freight” (i.e. we pay to ship them books), and our distributor’s fee, we are not breaking the NDA’s we signed about discounts.


6 Responses to “Amazon rude? Surely not?”

  1. Kathe on February 1st, 2010 7:29 am

    “Amazon sold a couple of thousand copies of our paper books last year—and we just don’t care.”

    Refreshing to see it said straight out – good for you. My Macmillan/FSG books are affected but I don’t care either. We live in interesting times.

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  4. John Ginsberg-Stevens on February 1st, 2010 7:06 pm

    Thanks for giving us the small publisher perspective. Knowing the margins and the actual impact (small or great) that Amazon has on its suppliers fills in some of the picture in this skirmish. This really seems to be less about money and more about maintaining position and control. It will be interesting to see if more publishers maneuver around Amazon as the ebook market grows.

    It also still amazes me that people don’t understand how an ebook is a product of many people’s hard work. Click ‘n’ Get culture really obfuscates the human effort behind creative productions.

  5. Gavin on February 2nd, 2010 2:56 pm

    I should point out that due to our evil “contracts” with the writers we have a “monopoly” on their books.

    Hmm, our spin capitulates, er, capsizes before the storm of crap that Amazon is spinning.

    Back to work.

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