I’m one of those people who regards Amazon as a company out of control. Funded by investors for years running at a loss until they managed to stiff most of the online competition, they continue to avoid paying tax by channeling business through iffy countries. Now they have achieved the domination their long-term business model planned for, they are starting to turn the screw ever harder on suppliers. Their discount demands are already huge, and force UP the price of books elsewhere as publishers try to achieve a price which will still cover costs after the big discounts. This has pushed many into out-sourcing printing to China – putting UK printers out of business – just to get those lower costs. And we haven’t even started on how the company treats workers in many of their warehouses.
Now, having pushed publishers to the point where it is harder to justify short reprint runs to keep titles in print, Amazon are trying to demand the right to supply digitally printed copies of any title which goes out of stock themselves. They have already helped decimate the CD market and high street record shops (I recall a couple of years ago they tried to force the record labels in Germany to agree to new terms which would give Amazon the right to order stock as they wanted, dictate the selling price of that stock, when they would pay the suppliers and (if they did pay when they said – though they would not necessarily do so) award themselves a further discount on that payment. You really would be hard pressed to make this all up (don’t worry I kept all the correspondence from my distributors). Happily the labels banded together and told them where to stick it.
Most publishers do offer mail-order options, support them by using these. And the sooner publishers get together and organise an umbrella web retail portal and stop supplying Amazon the better.
Here’s The Guardian’s take on their latest tricks.