Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bedtime for Bezos: OR Books Says "Thanks, But No Thanks" to Amazon
Colin Robinson - Co-publisher at OR Books
Posted: March 22, 2010 Huffington Post

Amazon, the world's largest book retailer, is once again throwing its substantial weight around. Having been forced in January to allow big publishers to set the price of their own eBooks on the site, Amazon is now fighting a rearguard action with the smaller houses. According to The New York Times of March 17th, Amazon "has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions..."

At OR Books, the new start up by myself and John Oakes, we have simple message for publishers being menaced in this way: You are in an abusive relationship. It's doing little for you that you can't do better yourselves. It's time to say "IT'S OVER".

With sales of $24 billion in 2009 (up 26% on the previous year), Amazon didn't get to where it is today by being touchy-feely. This is a company, after all, founded by Jeff Bezos, a man so devoted to the cold science of calculation that, for evening companionship after a hectic day on 80s Wall Street, he developed a system called "women flow", a variation of finance's "deal flow".

Amazon has resolutely opposed unionization in its warehouses on both sides of the Atlantic. And it has shown equal determination in refusing to pay state sales tax, utilizing a fiscal loophole that disadvantages local businesses and deprives states of much-needed revenue. It spent nearly $600,000 in just the last three months of 2009 lobbying the federal government on the issue.

In the battle over pricing of eBooks the company's steely calculus has once again flared to open aggression. Struggling to secure the future of its eBook reader Kindle, it wants to sell all e-titles at $9.99 or less. Publishers are worried that such cheap prices will eat into sales revenues of their conventional books.

Two months ago Amazon removed all of the buy buttons for Macmillan's titles from its site after the publisher insisted on setting its own prices. A tense stand-off followed before Amazon backed down, displaying characteristic contempt for the very idea of a publisher as it did so. In an unsigned letter to its customers it claimed it was being forced to accept Macmillan's terms "because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles." The Emperor had been exposed, if not as naked, at least as wearing armor with some serious chinks.

Read Colin Robinson's full piece at Huffington Post

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