Sunday, June 15, 2008

Amazon Bullying The Publishing Market?

There have been news that Amazon is taking out the icon "buy now with 1 click" for several publishers. How important is this one button? Here's an explanation from the International Herald Tribune:

The button allows registered users to purchase titles instantly, with free shipping. Customers can still buy the affected books, but they have to navigate to an open marketplace that links them to third-party sellers of new or used books. And they have to pay for shipping.

Just recently it has disabled this button for British Web site with hundreds of books published by Hachette Livre UK, from back-list Stephen King novels to, naturally, "The Hachette Guide to French Wine."

According to Hachette's CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson, Amazon - one of the biggest online retailers, he said, was demanding a bigger slice of the "cake." Publishers traditionally sell books to retailers at a discount off the recommended retail price, but Amazon was demanding more than its existing 50 percent.

"Amazon seems each year to go from one publisher to another making increasing demands in order to achieve richer terms at our expense and sometimes at yours," Hutchinson said in the letter. "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."

For now, the dispute remains unresolved. So the buy buttons are missing from older titles like "Labyrinth" by Kate Mosse or "Duma Key," by Stephen King, who still managed to get favored treatment for titles in his "Dark Tower" series. Many of Hachette's titles have also been dropped from Amazon promotions suggesting additional titles for customers in their favorite genres.

The dispute with Hachette is not the first in which Amazon has resorted to removing the "buy now" buttons for certain books. In the spring it started disabling the icons for some small publishers in the United States who resisted Amazon's demand that they use an Amazon-owned company, BookSurge, for print-on-demand services. Amazon is the dominant seller of such titles.

I used to admire Amazon a lot, specially the business model that Jeffrey Bezos put together. How they were consumer centric and user friendly. But now it seems it's all about the money.... tsk tsk tsk

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