Angela Bole, chief executive officer, Independent Book Publisher’s Association, implies as much in the lead article of the June issue of the IBPA Independent magazine. She takes issue with Amazon’s change in policy on its book buy box.
Amazon’s Buy Box
This is the method which Amazon has used in the past to say that the book in question is new and is supplied by the publisher. Now, Amazon is offering a priority spot in the buy box the third party suppliers who offer the same book as new, but at a price significantly below the publisher’s list and Amazon’s Prime price.
For example, a hard cover version of The Bestseller Code has a publishers list of $25.99. Amazon is offering it at $14.29 Prime. There are eight third-party sellers offering the book at prices lower than Amazon’s. The worry, of course, is that publishers and authors are not receiving their due compensation on these cheap books.
In the article, Ms Bole asks: “Where might these third-party sellers be getting the books that they sell that don’t result in any author compensation? Any number of ways, including donated books, closeout sales, sidewalk sellers, remainder and overstock dealers, ‘hurts’ from distributor stock, promo copies and ARC’s” (advanced reader copies – f0r reviewers). An Amazon spokesperson wrote to Publishers Weekly to say that books obtained in one of the preceding ways wouldn’t qualify, because the books must be ‘new”. Amazon defines ‘new’ as ‘brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition. The dust cover and original protective wrapping, if any, is intact’.
“The problem is that Amazon does nothing to enforce the ‘new’ policy.” The third-party seller gets to declare that the book is ‘new’ by simply choosing the ‘new’ option. . . . .
“Karla Olson, director of Pantagonia Books, said, ‘We received a comment on one of our books that it was riddled with typos, and the captions were all the same for the second half of the book. It took us a few reads to figure out that the customer had bought an ARC, from Amazon. . . .
“And Cynthia Frank, president at Cypress House pointed out another problem. ‘We’ve learned that some of the third-party sellers who have won our Buy Boxes are actually fly-by-night sellers who have only been in the business a few months. Some likely don’t have even a single copy. On various listservs and forums, including LinkedIn, I’ve read that some customers pay for a book, but it never arrives. Amazon, because they take good care of their customers (as opposed to their vendors), ends up holding the bag and has to pay a refund.”
“According to Ian Lamont, founder at 130 Media, in a written statement, ‘Even before the policy change, there were several recent cases of counterfeit paperbacks being co-mingled with legitimate inventory at an Amazon warehouse (as reported by No Starch Press) and taking over the Buy Box (which happened to Author Dave Burgess). Knock-offs taking over the Buy Box has been a massive issue for manufacturers for several years (as reported by Forbes). And it’s clear that Amazon can’t control this new policy if they can’t solve the counterfeit problem.'”
Why would Amazon want to introduce a policy like this? I don’t know, but I suspect that it is driven by Amazon’s commitment to offering goods at the lowest possible price. What Amazon has apparently failed to consider is that the goods are different at the lowest price from the ‘same’ goods at the more reasonable price. They have also failed to consider the interests of the people who try to earn a living from the goods Amazon sells.
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