Amazon and consumers

On a purely emotional level, it is difficult not to get frustrated with Amazon’s corporate arrogance.

The monopolistic company repeatedly say they are good for consumers. This is blatantly untrue. Whilst they are ruthlessly driving down prices, which some book-buyers might appreciate, they are also limiting choice, because both publishers and authors need to be able earn a decent return on their investment in producing and marketing a book.

We sell a large number of our books through Amazon, for which they take a whopping 60% – and we have to pay for postage. This means that we are barely able to earn anything through Amazon, and survive on our agreements elsewhere. By taking such an unfairly large cut, Amazon is ensuring that many very worthwhile projects never actually see the light of day. Would you want to publish a book if most of your money was going to go to Amazon, who effectively do nothing except exist?

Amazon repeatedly say they support small publishers. We are a small publisher, and our success has come in spite of Amazon and not because of Amazon. Amazon does not support the little guys. We would do extremely well if Amazon did not exist and we could market directly to other distributors.

Gardners and Bertrams distribute our book to bookshops in the UK, and do not take nearly as large a cut.

And now this: Amazon are fighting a very public battle with Hachette, a French publisher, over the price of e-books.

Because I don’t follow Amazon on a daily basis, the first I heard of the dispute was when Amazon sent this rather bizarre letter to publishers of Kindle books. I was astonished, yet again, by Amazon’s sheer arrogance – that it was actually claiming to want to drive down the price of ebooks on behalf of the consumer.

This is what is really going on.

All our guidebooks are available on Amazon Kindle, of course. When we publish an e-book, we set a price for it. But Amazon caps the maximum we can charge. In the US, this is set at $9.99. From this, Amazon take either 30% or 70%, depending on what rights we cede.

Right, now go on to Amazon and search for our Kindle book to The Hague. You will not find it for $9.99, which is what we get paid royalties on. Amazon add a good few dollars on to the list price, which they pocket as a tidy profit. At last check, the price was $12.09. It’s often more.

So for Amazon to claim in their pompous letter that they are actually fighting for lower e-book prices – rather than bigger corporate profits – is pretty despicable.

For them to continue to claim that they are good for consumers… well, does anyone really believe that any more?

Consider boycotting Amazon. We do.

(And here, for completeness, is the letter that a group of authors, backed by Hachette, published in the New York Times)

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2 Responses to “Amazon and consumers”

  1. Ken Says:

    Your price at Amazon is $9.99. Looking at the “Look Inside” preview your formatting is, at best, less than professional. Your cover is amateurish and unappealing. As it stands, at $9.99 your book seems way overpriced.

    Instead of whining about Amazon’s shortcomings, you would be better served to offer a more professional product and a more reasonable price. Invest in professional formatting, and hire an editor.

    I am considering a boycott, but its not of Amazon…

    • blakerig Says:

      It’s difficult to know quite how to respond to this. Our cover being ‘amateurish’ is utter rubbish. Thousands of readers and bookshops would disagree with you. Bookshops would not be stocking us if they thought the same, and in designing the cover we consulted dozen of people within the publishing and book-selling industry, who gave us feedback. Are you in the publishing industry, perchance, as that might lend your comments some credence?

      $9.99 is not too much, given that Amazon takes between 30 and 70%, and that writing a professional guidebook, which is quite simply the most informative guide you will find anywhere on The Hague, took three years and filled up more man-hours than I care to consider. We’re not talking about sitting down at the computer and simply cutting and pasting from other websites. We’re talking about detailed painstaking research of everything that went into the book.

      Our book was professionally edited, professionally designed. Every single chapter was fact-checked by a minimum of two people, and then proof-read for the English by a minimum of two people. All of this comes at a cost.

      So, quite frankly, you don’t actually know what you’re talking about.

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