New Amazon terms amount to ‘assisted suicide’ for book industry, say experts

“British authors have condemned as ‘deeply worrying’ reports that Amazon is now pressing for improved terms from publishers in the UK, as its showdown with Hachette in the US continues to be played out in public,” Alison Flood reports for The Guardian.

“According to book industry bible the Bookseller, to whom UK publishers spoke on condition of anonymity, Amazon is putting publishers under ‘heavy pressure’ to introduce new terms,” Flood reports. “The Bookseller reports that these include the proviso that ‘should a book be out of stock from the publisher, Amazon would be entitled to supply its own copies to customers via its print-on-demand facilities,’ and that ‘books cannot be sold for a lower price than Amazon’s anywhere, including on a publisher’s own website.'”

“The Bookseller’s editor Philip Jones said the ongoing negotiations ‘indicate a direction of travel that would see [Amazon] take a sizeable control over both a publisher’s inventory and its marketing,’ and that “publishers spoken to – and obviously they will only speak on condition of complete anonymity – have every right to be concerned. This is a form of assisted suicide for the book business, driven by the idea that publishers are a sickly lot unable to run even the most basic operations efficiently,'” Flood reports. “The Society of Authors chief executive Nicola Solomon called the print-on-demand clause ‘deeply worrying,’ and said that Amazon was ‘already far too dominant in dictating ebook prices. No one company should have such dominance or be the principal commercial driver of an entire industry.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: In response the U.S. DOJ said “uh, derr, uh… duuuuhhh,” drooled a bit, and deposited a load into its collective diaper. U.S. Federal Puppet Denise Cote then offered, “Here, let me rubber-stamp that for you.”

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Arline M.” for the heads up.]

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21 Comments

  1. If publishers refuse to deal with Amazon, they will take a hit initially, but they will survive and many alternative sources for their hardcover, paperback, and ebooks will arise and thrive.

    1. Yes! Each publisher should now independently repudiate its decision to sell e-books to Amazon on the wholesaler basis. Instead, each publisher should (independently) agree to sell their e-books _through_ Amazon only on the agency-basis. All this is legal.

      The DOJ totally blew it.

  2. If I ordered a book from Amazon, particularly a hardcover, and Amazon then sent me an inferior print-on-demand copy, not the original publishers copy, I would be incandescent! It would be sent straight back, and either the book I ordered sent to me, or a refund; I would not accept, under any circumstances, a cheap knock-off of an expensive hardcover book.

      1. Yes, I’m old. I’ll admit that up front.

        I prefer a physical book. I have a library (an entire 250+ square foot room) in my house for all my books I’ve collected and read over the years (some issued over a century ago [and no, I didn’t buy those new]).

        I believe there are still many people like me. We like the feel of a physical book. For technical books we like to be able to highlight passages, mark them up, put equations in the margins, make free space force drawings in the margins, etc.

        I don’t believe buying a paper (or in the rare case, vellum) book is a bad thing.

        And, over the years I’ve gotten a few Amazon print on demand books. One, a very technical book costing well over $200 came with the cover put onto it backward. The rest of the book was fine. Amazon dithered as to whether to give me a replacement. I went to the publisher and asked them to replace it to which they replied that they didn’t print it. Therefore it was not their fault and would not replace it. So I was stuck with a faulty Amazon on demand book. Amazon probably sells single digit numbers of that book a year, and maybe not even that number anymore. So they’ll probably continue with their on demand process for that book if anyone asks for it.

        So… saying, “you will never know it was not the original”, is just not true.

  3. “books cannot be sold for a lower price than Amazon’s anywhere, including on a publisher’s own website”

    Wasn’t this exactly what Apple was asking for, for iBooks?

    1. ABSOLUTELY NOT!

      “books cannot be sold for a lower price than Amazon’s anywhere, including on a publisher’s own website”

      IF (and I haven’t see actual copies of the proposed contracts so I don’t know for sure) this is how it is actually written in the contract, this *IS* a Most Favored Nation clause! This is exactly what the stupid DOJ and Cote convicted Apple of doing! This is a proactive clause. Note that it states that Amazon gets the best price no matter what. Others can match it but not beat it.

      Conversely, Apple’s contracts stated a Best Customer clause. Apple required that if the publishers allowed other resellers to sell at a lower price then Apple could sell to its customers at that lower price too. Apple’s contracts stated that Apple would be ALLOWED to price match if it wanted. There was no requirement for the publishers to give Apple the best price.

      Note four things: 1) Apple’s clause was reactive not proactive. It only reacted to a change in the market that was done independently of Apple. Amazon’s clause is proactive in that it gets the best price and no one can do a lower price. 2) Apple actually made less money if the publisher lowered the price. Apple only got a percentage of what the sale price is, not a fixed amount. 3) The publisher had absolute final control of the pricing. Not Apple. 4) Unlike the proposed Amazon clause, if Apple decided to not lower their price on their store (i.e., not be reactive and lower their [Apple’s] price) then there was no requirement for the publishers to force others to raise their prices to match Apple’s price. (Note the Amazon clause states that no one can sell for a price lower than Amazon. So if Amazon proactively chooses to sell a paperback book for $10,000.00 then no other vendor can sell that book for less than $10,000.00!)

      The difference between a Most Favored Nation Clause (what the DOJ and Cote claimed Apple had and what Amazon’s new contract is trying to force) and a Best Customer Clause (what Apple actually had) goes to the root of why Apple should never have been sued over its contracts with the publishers or any supposed collusion. It also goes to the inherent misunderstanding of contracts by the DOJ and Cote.

      Will the DOJ and Cote go after Amazon over a REAL Most Favored Nation Clause?

      I doubt it.

  4. Really, Publishers have to find another way and deep six Amazon completely out of the picture, making them a closed book.

    Most everyone, except Judge Cote, Eric Holder & the DOJ, saw this coming as Amazon virtually begins Phase Two of trying to take over the publishing business itself.

  5. The publishers can take any approach they want as long as they don’t talk among themselves, don’t talk to other potential distribution channels, never hazard a guess at their selling price and under no circumstance adopt any agency business model. That’s all in there, right “Judge” Cote?

  6. Yup, the eyes of justice… Maybe the “Judge”, DOJ, and Holder should see an optometrist before Bezo figures out a way to replace them with even more in lockstep cronies.

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