Amazon are bullying traditional publishers — why you should be worried

The BBC has reported on the latest round of negotiations between Amazon and UK publishers as Amazon attempt to secure ever more favourable terms for themselves. Many of you will already be familiar with the Amazon versus Hachette dispute, whereby Amazon are trying to bully large publishers into lowering ebook prices. In the UK, Amazon have further upped the ante by demanding that publishers hand over their print files and give Amazon the right to print any books where the publisher has failed to provide Amazon with adequate stock. But as any small publisher will tell you, Amazon’s stocking policies have become increasingly complex and frustrating; one now has to wonder if that has been by design: Amazon can then claim the publisher has been unable to fulfill orders, and Amazon will default to printing their own copies, once again padding Amazon’s profits, this time at the expense of the book printing industry.

Many self-published authors and self-publishing gurus, in their blind hatred of traditional publishers, have sided with Amazon, whom many see as their personal saviour, the company that gave them the ability to publish after a multitude of traditional publisher rejections. Many of these same authors and gurus also promote as advantageous to authors many of the programs like KDP Select that require giving Amazon exclusivity.

The problem with this Amazon-is-our-god approach is that a monopoly over the industry, and the destruction of the traditional publishing industry, are both bad for business, period.

The nearer a monopoly Amazon have the more power they have, and as you can see in the dispute with traditional publishers, the more power Amazon have the greater profits they demand for themselves at the expense of everyone else. How long do you think Amazon will pay us 70% of the sale price of our ebooks if the likes of Kobo and Apple are destroyed? Amazon already do not really pay 70% like the competition do — Amazon charge authors a delivery fee before calculating that 70%, which means you are never really paid 70% of the sale price — so do you really think either the delivery fee will not be increased or the royalty rate decreased as Amazon’s market share increases ever more?

As for the lowering of ebook prices by traditional publishers, this is really bad news for indie authors.

When choosing between an indie author and the likes of Stephen King or a Pulitzer prize winner, often the only thing that encourages consumers to give an unknown author a try is our lower prices compared to traditionally published books. If Amazon manage to bully King’s publisher down to $9.99 or less, we self-publishers will also have to lower our prices even more, creating a race to the bottom. Most of us writers are already struggling to keep our heads above water; must we now be doomed to becoming bottom feeders?


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