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The Amazon Wars are back! (You knew they weren't over.)

In this most recent skirmish, authors, agents, and booksellers have banded together to call for a Dept of Justice investigation into Amazon's monopolistic tactics.

In a recent ruling against Apple, even the judges expressed some doubts as to whether they were looking at the right target.

"Would it not matter that all those people got together to defeat a monopolist? It’s like the mice that got together to put a bell on a cat,” U.S. Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs told the Justice Department’s lawyer, Malcolm Stewart.

Apple is hardly a mouse. It has its own antitrust suit to deal with over iTunes. Nevertheless, Jacobs does have a point.

When Apple began its efforts to undermine Amazon, Amazon controlled 93% of the ebook market. That figure has since fallen, but because Amazon is secretive about its market share, nobody really knows how much it controls.

The truth is that the market rests in the hands of very few companies. Whether they collude or compete, the end result is always the same: Authors lose out.
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Authors, Booksellers & Agents Call for DoJ to Investigate Amazon

By Judith Rosen

Publishers Weekly, Jul 14, 2015

Authors United, a loosely knit group of authors who banded together last year to apply pressure to Amazon during its then-dispute with Hachette, has called on its members to sign a new letter destined for the antitrust division of the Department of Justice.

Last fall Douglas Preston, the thriller writer who formed Authors United, aired his group's concerns about Amazon's domination of the retail book market in a meeting with the DoJ. Now, although the Hachette-Amazon disputed has ended, he said enough has not been done about Amazon's position in the marketplace.

In an e-mail sent Monday afternoon, calling on authors to sign the new letter, Preston wrote: “The settlement of the dispute did not change the fundamental problem: That one corporation now dominates the book market in the United States. We believe Amazon has used its power in ways that harm the interests of authors, readers, booksellers, and the publishing industry as a whole.”

Preston composed the letter to the DoJ, which will be sent days after Amazon celebrates its 20th anniversary, with the Authors Guild. The letter has also been endorsed by the American Booksellers Association and the Association of Authors’ Representatives.

“Today a single company, Amazon, has gained unprecedented power over America’s market for books,” it begins. “We are not experts in antitrust law, and this letter is not a legal brief. But we are authors with a deep, collective experience in this field, and we agree with the authorities in economics and law who have asserted that Amazon’s dominant position makes it a monopoly as a seller of books and a monopsony as a buyer of books.”

Read more HERE.

 
 
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With the recent announcement that it will begin paying Kindle Unlimited authors by pages read, rather than borrows, Amazon has set off a spate of commentary, from Fortune to a satirical jab by the Telegraph.

Nobody has ever paid authors by the number of pages read. Authors have been paid by pages written, especially when their works are serialized, and they have been paid by the word. But the idea of paying an author for the number of pages a reader actually reads is unprecedented. There is no comparison to be made in the history of authorship. (Not even pricing books by how much they weigh, or by how large they are.)

The confusion Amazon has generated is apparent in the Authors Guild statement below. In it, the Guild raises a number of questions, largely having to do with logistics (What counts as a page read?), and implications for authors (Will they have to generate cliff hangers? and the eternal, Will quality suffer?)

None of these critiques of a system in which reader attention span determines the economic success of an author addresses the underlying problem with this scheme.

It monitors readers in ways that are highly intrusive.

How much I read of a book, or which pages I read of a book, is none of Amazon's business. Not only should Amazon keep its nose out of my reading habits, it should not draw any conclusions from them. I often read nonfiction books piecemeal. Sometimes, I read works of fiction in snippets. (Short stories, poetry collections.) Should a writer get paid less if he or she wrote only one short story or poem that touched my heart? What if that poem were "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"? If I didn't read any other poem in that collection, would it mean Robert Frost was less beloved in my eyes? Would it make him less well known to the reading public than someone who had written a book of dirty limericks (of which I guarantee every single page would be turned)?

You betcha. And, as a consequence of paying authors via this bizarre system (especially if it catches on) careers will be hampered, talent will go unrewarded, and readers will be served continual crowd-sourced pap - all under the banner of "books readers want to read."

Once again, publishers (in this case Amazon) not only determine what authors get paid, but what readers should like. But unlike industry manipulation of bestseller lists, fixed reviews, and well-placed hype, this is an invasion of privacy with no benefit to either readers or authors.

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From the Authors Guild:

Starting July 1, Amazon will pay royalties to its indie authors based on the number of pages users actually read, rather than the number of times the book is “borrowed.” In its announcement, Amazon touted its unilateral amendment to its terms for self-published e-books enrolled in its Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) e-lending services. The change, Amazon said, is a response to authors’ complaints about the unfairness of its current single rate for all books, regardless of length. Writers of longer works will stand to benefit, provided those books are read in full, but it could slash the earnings of entire classes of authors, such as poets and children’s book writers, whose works tend to have fewer pages. The new regime leaves intact Amazon’s unfortunate practice of paying indie authors out of an opaque royalty pool, which pits self-published authors against one another in a zero-sum scramble for readers. With a finite amount of money to go around each month, one author’s gain is another’s loss.

The royalty adjustment comes almost a year after Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited, an e-book subscription service where readers pay $9.99 a month for access to hundreds of thousands of titles, most of which are self-published by members of Amazon’s KDP Select program. KDP Select authors, who are automatically enrolled in both KU and KOLL, agree to make their e-books available exclusively through Kindle platforms, preventing these indie authors from exploring other revenue streams as long as they are enrolled in Select. Authors may, however, drop out of KDP Select by contacting Amazon with the ASIN of the book they would like to remove, according to the announcement.

Under its outgoing royalty structure, Amazon pays a fee for each book “borrowed,” provided at least 10% of the book is read. The fee is the same for short story–length books as it is for a 500-page novel. Some writers quickly learned how to game the system and flooded Kindle Unlimited with excerpts and shorter works, even publishing books in chapters, since once a reader crosses the 10% “borrow” threshold the author earns the same no matter how long or complex the book is. While there are any number of other possible solutions to the problem, Amazon’s solution is to pay per page read. This represents an entirely new way of thinking about compensation for authors.

Exactly how this will impact books in the long run is hard to know, but it undoubtedly will affect KDP Select authors’ writing and the ability of some of these authors to make a living. For now, many questions remain to be answered. Will authors enrolled in the program feel compelled to write longer books? Will they feel the need to make sure every page has a compelling detail or cliffhanger? Will there be more padding (to make a book longer) or less (so every page is read)? If books do get padded, will readers start reading differently and skipping more? What happens to the long works of nonfiction that might take years to write and add greatly to our society’s knowledge base, but are rarely read in full by the lay reader? Will skimmed pages count? How long does a reader have to spend on a page for it to count as “read”? What data will Amazon share with authors and publishers? Will the data it gathers (most likely kept close) give it even greater dominance in indie publishing? Will it share any of its reading statistics with writers to help them have more pages read? Will they eventually foist this payment method on publishers, starting with the smaller ones who have little to no negotiating power?

At first glance, it appear that tying royalties to pages read will only incentivize authors to produce books that compel readers to keep reading. It’s not so clear whether that will result in better books. What is clear is that Amazon’s contracts with its indie authors are non-negotiable terms of use that Amazon can change at any time and which become binding on its authors within 30 days of their posting. Since its Kindle Select terms require exclusivity, this unilateral change in the royalty structure has the potential to disrupt the livelihoods of KDP Select authors with little to no warning. Even with Amazon’s monthly tinkering with the royalty pool, under its per-borrow scheme authors in recent months could at least count on a rate of somewhere between $1.33 and $1.40 per borrow. Writers of children’s books, particularly books for young children, will necessarily see that rate go down significantly.

Announced just weeks before it takes effect, the change is a reminder of Amazon’s power not only vis-à-vis traditional publishers and authors, but also among those self-published authors who have often been the e-tailer’s most vocal apologists. It’s never been more clear that indie authors who publish with KDP Select are dependent on Amazon’s business decisions, including how much money to distribute via the monthly royalty pool.

This is also a sad reminder that traditional publishers—whose unsavory contract terms we’re focusing on as part of our Fair Contract Initiative—aren’t the only ones who offer writers take-it-or-leave-it publishing contracts.

In additional Amazon news, the retailer has come to terms with Penguin Random House, the last of the Big Five publishers to negotiate e-book terms with Amazon after the expiration of the consent decree resulting from the U.S. v. Apple e-book pricing litigation. Neither side disclosed the nature of those terms or what pricing model (wholesale or agency) will govern under the terms of the new agreement.

 
 
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From the Author's Guild, January 20, 2015

A lively audience of readers gathered last Thursday evening at New York City’s Kaufman Center to hear a panel of four authors hash out the contentious proposition that “Amazon is the reader’s friend.”

The Oxford-style debate, hosted by Intelligence Squared (IQ2), featured two writers arguing for the motion and two against it. In the Amazon corner were self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and Matthew Yglesias, Executive Editor of Vox. Pitted against them, former Authors Guild President Scott Turow and Franklin Foer, former Editor of The New Republic, contended that Amazon is not, by a long shot, the reader’s friend.

The IQ2 debates declare a winner by polling the audience at both the beginning and the end of the arguments, and comparing the results. The side that sways more people takes the cake. Before the debate, 41% of the audience voted for the proposition that Amazon is the reader’s friend, 28% voted against it, and 31% were undecided. At evening’s end, there was a clear victor: the Amazon apologists managed to increase their backers by a mere one percentage point, while Turow and Foer earned a 22% spike, overwhelmingly capturing the undecided vote.

Throughout the evening, Yglesias and Konrath largely stuck with the appealing arguments that Amazon’s low prices for readers and higher royalty rates for its self-published authors are benefits without downsides. But Turow and Foer’s effectiveness lay in taking a position that honored the diversity of the literary ecosystem. Left unchecked, they suggested, we may end up with a book world controlled by Amazon. The better option by far is a competitive plurality of publishers and distributors.

Turow agreed that self-publishing works very well for some authors in some publishing sectors. He was clearly encouraged, for instance, that self-publishing gives voice—and a second chance—to authors overlooked by traditional publishers. “I am not against self-publishing,” said Turow, before homing in on Amazon’s deliberate attempt to eliminate publishing houses, “but if we do away with traditional publishers, there will be a great loss to literary culture.”

Another reason Amazon can’t be trusted, Turow noted, is that it hasn’t even stood by the very self-published authors who defend it so vociferously. Turow illustrated this with a point that his opponents couldn’t counter: although many self-published authors rallied to defend Amazon during the Hachette dispute, recently Amazon dramatically cut the earnings of self-published authors enrolled in its Kindle Unlimited program.

Foer also pointed out that a loss of publishers could mean a loss of the nonfiction works requiring “deep reporting,” work which is time-consuming and expensive, and which can only be sustained by an advance from a publisher. It would also mean the loss of the committed editorial investments provided by publishers. “Writers are the people in the world who are least able to see the flaws in their own work,” he said.

“Scott and Franklin did a terrific job of articulating exactly what we’ve stood for throughout our many disagreements with Amazon,” said Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson. “Namely, that a diverse literary marketplace is a healthy literary marketplace. And I’m personally encouraged—though not surprised—that so many readers in the audience agreed.”

Much of the argument focused on Amazon’s place within the publishing industry at large. Yglesias opened by proposing that Amazon’s massive share of the publishing markets—it sells 41% of all books sold in the U.S., and 67% of digital books—is the result of its superior product. Turow countered that such market power is a danger in and of itself. A friend is someone who you can rely on to treat your interests as equal to their own, he said. But Amazon has “habitually turned on its allies when it suited its needs. Anyone who believes Amazon will wield its market power kindly has not read Lord Acton or Machiavelli,” he continued, characterizing Amazon’s history of browbeating as “a mugging sponsored by Wall Street.”

Reflecting on the evening, Turow offered the following summation. “I regard the question of Amazon’s role in American literary culture as truly important, and I was glad Frank and I were able to make many in the audience understand that Amazon is a Trojan Horse, offering low prices today—while Wall Street is willing to float a company that doesn’t make a profit—at the cost of destroying the publishing ecosystem that is indispensable to authors who can’t write several books every year, as many self-published authors do.” Turow further noted, “You never make all the points you want to. But I wish I had made more of the fact that Amazon actually prevents competition by locking its customers in through devices like Prime and DRM, which means Amazon customers can’t read books sold by Apple or Google Play on their Kindles.”

As the event came to an end, the writers’ closing arguments tended to encapsulate their styles. Konrath resorted to off-color humor and bribery: he offered free books for votes, making the salient point that, as a self-published author selling on Amazon, he is able to set the price of his books and even to give them away for free, and doing do, he has sold—and given away—millions of books. Turow spoke of how, like Konrath, he struggled to find a publisher for his first novel, and agreed that Amazon was good for readers and authors in some ways. The problem with Amazon, he explained, is the threat it poses to literary culture at large, and ultimately to the reader. “I don’t judge these things on the basis of what’s good for me,” he said, adding that while Amazon has been very good to him, “I care about what’s good for all writers.” Yglesias maintained that his opponents were painting an unrealistic doomsday scenario, but that for now, Amazon’s low prices and great service make it a friend to readers.

Foer had the last word. Alluding to the arrogance of the tech industry’s self-styled “disrupters,” he noted that Americans have made “disruption . . . our secular religion.” This particular brand of optimism might well lead us to a future “that could be wonderful, or it could be a dystopian hell.” Lastly, he encouraged the audience to speak directly to Amazon with their votes. Tell Amazon, he said, “You’re dealing with precious cargo. Don’t abuse your power. Be good stewards of word and thought.”

The audience, apparently, was listening. Let’s hope Amazon was, too.

The debate, expertly moderated by John Donvan, is well worth watching in its entirety. An on-demand version will soon be available here.

 
 
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It appears as if the stalemate between Hachette and Amazon has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. Amazon has given Hachette control over the prices of its ebooks, and has promised to not only restore Hachette titles to its inventory, but to feature them during the holiday season.

Is this the end of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars? Probably not. While discontinuing its extortionist tactics, at least for the time being, Amazon is still building a monopoly. History has shown time and time again that monopolies are good for nobody - except the people running them. 

With that in mind, Authors United is still going ahead with its plans to ask the Department of Justice to start an antitrust inquiry into Amazon.  

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Amazon-Hachette Deal: The Reaction

Publishers Weekly, November 13, 2014

News broke Thursday that the two companies had reached new sales terms--after a stalemate in their negotiations became public in May--with Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch telling authors and agents in a letter that the agreement gives the publisher "considerable benefits." Chief among those benefits, is that Hachette can sell its ebooks on Amazon using a model he called "Agency," giving the publisher "full responsibility for the consumer prices of our ebooks."

Pietsch, in a statement about the agreement, noted that Hachette's the new ebook terms won't take effect until 2015 but that, in interim, its titles will return to "normal availability" on Amazon. (During the stalled negotiations, a number of Hachette titles were unavailable for pre-order, or faced long delivery times.) Additionally, with the agreement, Hachette titles will now be featured in Amazon promotions for the holiday season, which Pietsch called "a very positive development." It could be until the middle of next week, however, for Amazon to be fully stocked on all HBG titles.

Read the rest of this article HERE.


 
 
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This article by Lynn Serafinn provides not only one of the best explanations for how Amazon manages to elude every ethical practice in the publishing world, it lays out neatly and concisely how publishing actually works.

This is a must-read article if you intend to publish. Whether you are doing it on your own or through a traditional publisher, it is important to understand the different functions of printers, publishers, retailers, and distributors. 

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Becoming an Empowered SELF-Published Author – Ethics & Practice

By Lynn Serafinn

Other the past few months, many authors have been writing to me all in a fluster over a controversy that apparently has arisen between Amazon and Lightning Source. I wanted to address this controversy because, frankly, I think a lot of people are having a knee-jerk reaction to what I think is basically an ethical issue, and I would like to show what I think might be a more ‘holistic’ response to it.

First of all, you need to know a bit about the parties involved and what is going on. Before we do that, let’s take a quick look at the flow that is involved in the production of any product, including your book:

1) It starts with the creator

2) It goes to the publisher

3) Then it goes to the manufacturer

4) Then to the distributor

5) Then to the retailer

6) Then to the consumer

STEPS 1 & 2: When you are truly self-publishing a book, YOU are also the publisher (so steps 1 and 2 are combined). But if you are going through a subsidiary press (such as iUniverse, Balboa Press or Create Space), you are not 100% ‘self published.’ On the one hand, you ARE self-published in that you don’t need a publishing deal and you retain all rights to your work. On the other hand, you are NOT self-published in that your subsidiary publisher is entitled to (usually) around 50% of your royalties as long as you print through them.

STEP 3: In printing, the ‘manufacturer’ is the printer. The publisher (even if that means you) then sends the book to the printer. Either we get a quantity of books printed in advance, or we use a “print on demand” (POD) service. Back when I first started out in the published world (and also when I ran a record company), you typically have to order 1000-2000 copies of your book (or record/CD) in order to get a decent price. Then, you always ran the risk of your publication sitting around collecting dust because you couldn’t move 2000 copies. Since the rise of POD in the publishing industry, that risk and investment has been removed for self-publishing authors. Lightning Source is one such POD service, certainly the most known in the world, and the one I use and recommend to my clients. Instead of having to buy 2000 copies of your book and the ship them to distributors, they print them ONLY when you have a customer for them (whether wholesale or retail), so you only pay for what you know you are going to sell.

STEP 4: The next step is to send the books to a distributor who then sells the books to retail shops. Of course, this saves the publisher a heck of a lot of time and energy, so the distributor is one of the most important pieces of the sales puzzle. Distributors typically buy your product between 50-60% off the retail price (55% is the most common), so they can sell it on to retails shops, and the retail shops can make a profit. That means if your book is selling for $10, they will pay around $4.50 for your book. From that price, you deduct your printing costs (I spoke about this in another article – Click HERE if you’d like to read it), and that is your profit.

Now what is so cool about Lightning Source is that they will also distribute your book for you via Ingram Book Company. Mind you, that does NOT mean that retail shops will necessarily BUY your book. It just means that they can supply them with your book if they order it.

STEP 5: The next step is the retailer. The retailer is the ‘shop’, whether online or on the ground, that sells your book to the customer. Typically, in my experience, retailers in the book and record industry buy your product for between 35-45% off the retail price. That means they will pay about $6.00 for a $10 book, which means the distributor makes about $1.50 per book sold, and the retailer makes about $4.00. However, as we all know, retailers like to be able to have a good profit margin so they can LOWER the price, to be able to entice customers to buy your product OR to get RID of a product that isn’t selling (let’s hope that doesn’t happen to OUR books!). Back when I was a retailer, I often had to sell “dead stock” at cost or even BELOW the price I paid for it. It’s the only way to keep cash flow going. So retailers take a risk every time they buy something. They want to know they can sell it.

STEP 6: The last step, of course, is the customer. The customer likes to get a good deal on a product. That’s why, if you give your distributor a good discount in the first place, the retailer will have the freedom to lower his price and get more people to buy your book.

SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

The thing that confuses me is how Amazon fits into this picture. Now I have a close connection to Amazon in that much of my business depends upon it, as I work with authors. And as a customer, I have also found them to be both reliable and convenient. Authors love to see their books on Amazon because they can reach a wider audience much more quickly than they could by going only through traditional distribution routes to retail shops. All in all, Amazon is a great asset for us authors.

But here’s where things are a bit hazy. According to their entry on Wikipedia, they are it is often called the world’s largest online retailer. Most of us associate Amazon with books, but they have really expanded and now sell just about everything.

So Amazon is a ‘retailer’ (Step 5 in the model above) BUT for some strange reason, when it comes to purchasing power, they are not paying the same price for the books they sell as other retailers. In fact, they are paying the price that wholesalers/distributors pay for your book (Step 4). That means they are buying books at an average of 15% LESS than other retailers. This means they have a tremendous advantage in that they can seriously undercut your High Street book shop.

But wait… there’s more…

Read more here.


 
 
(In this video, Dick Cavett and stand-up comedian Dave Hill have a Tough Talk about the Amazon vs Everybody Wars. A bit of satire never hurt anybody ... not much anyway.)

It is rare to find authors united against (or even for) anything. Authors, like tigers, prefer to hunt alone. But Amazon changed all that when it affected their sales, first by pulling Macmillan titles from its list, and then by pulling pre-orders from Hachette titles.

Amazon has engaged in a number of tactics which have ruffled the feathers of not only authors, but entire governments - except for ours. 

That may soon change.

Authors United, an ad hoc group of over 1000 authors, has called for a Department of Justice investigation into possible anti-trust law violations committed by Amazon. Among the literary luminaries who have joined Authors United are: Philip Roth, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul, Ursula Le Guin and Milan Kundera. The estates of Saul Bellow, Roberto Bolaño, Joseph Brodsky, William Burroughs, John Cheever, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller and Hunter S. Thompson have also signed on.

In a parallel move, the Author's Guild, the country's largest advocacy group for writers, met with Justice Department officials in early August. The Guild, which has more than 8,500 members, raised concerns that Amazon is violating antitrust law.
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Authors United’s Next Move: DOJ

Publishers Weekly, September 24, 2014

Wednesday, bestselling thriller writer Douglas Preston, who oversees the group Authors United, confirmed that the organization intends to contact the Department of Justice requesting an antitrust inquiry into Amazon's tactics.

Authors United formed to voice the concerns of authors whose sales have been hurt as a result of the stalled sales terms negotiations between Amazon and Hachette. The Financial Times reported the group's intention to request that the DoJ mount an antitrust investigation into Amazon's approach to its business, and Preston confirmed the move to PW.

According to Preston, a letter addressed to William Baer, assistant attorney general for antitrust, has been drawn up and calls for a closer look at Amazon's practices. News of the letter, said Preston, was leaked "very prematurely."

The pending letter to the DoJ is the third action taken by Authors United. In August, the gorup made its first move by running a signed full-page ad in the New York Times asking readers to write to Amazon head Jeff Bezos. Authors United is also, currently, in the midst of putting together its second project, which involves FedExing a letter to members of the Amazon board of directors which questions whether the board approves the policy of sanctioning books. The letter states: “These sanctions have driven down Hachette authors' sales at Amazon.com by at least 50 percent, and in some cases by as much as 90 percent.”
 
 
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In the latest round of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars, Great Britain is calling for an anti-trust inquiry into Amazon's bad "behaviour."

Amazon's book sales accounted for nearly one-third of all book sales in the UK, and nearly 80% of ebook sales. Britain's booksellers are worried, and rightly so, that they will be driven out of business. 

The inquiry will investigate precisely how Amazon is smashing the competition, but there will be no surprises concerning Amazon's tactics.

Because Amazon is the "everything store" it can afford to lose money on books. Amazon has claimed that it is on the "side of the consumers" by keeping prices low, but, in reality, it is merely using its broad sales platform to drive all of its competitors out of business. Once there is no competition, Amazon can do what it likes.

British retailers and book publishers are attempting to provide online sales outlets to compete with Amazon, but, so far, they have not had great success.  Frankly, it may be a case of "too little, too late."

So far, the US has not taken a stand on the Amazon empire - nor will it ever. Despite our official support of free trade, we believe in monopolies.

Related postsRound 10 of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars: Amazon vs Japan

Round 9 of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars: Amazon vs Authors

Round 8 of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars: Amazon vs Disney

Round 7 of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars: Amazon vs the FTC

Round 6 of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars: Amazon vs The Authors Guild

Round 5 of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars: Amazon vs France

Round 4 of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars: Amazon vs Germany

Amazon Socks it to Time Warner: Authors, Are You Paying Attention?

Amazon Squashes Major Publishing House - Again (Hachette)

Round 1 was Macmillan.
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Publishers call for UK antitrust inquiry into Amazon

By Henry Mance, Financial Times, September 18, 2014

British publishers have called for a competition inquiry into Amazon’s dominance, saying that the UK’s retail book market “suffers from a chronic and debilitating imbalance for authors, publishers and booksellers”.

The move is the latest broadside against Amazon – which is already facing a protracted battle against French publisher Hachette and a competition complaint from German booksellers.

Read the rest of this article here.

 
 
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According to Steve Bohme, research director at Nielsen Book, the British self-published market is a "growth industry," meaning it is still quite small compared to overall sales of books. That may put somewhat of a damper on its spectacular growth. Nonetheless, 18 million self-published titles purchased (worth £59 million) is nothing to sneeze at.

While the book industry continues to regard the self-publishing market with a somewhat lazy eye, Amazon has not. As a consequence, it is attracting increasing numbers of self-published authors, even as it undercuts its competition. 

Great Britain is taking steps to curb Amazon's enthusiasm, but given the growing popularity of its self-publishing platform, as well as the increasing use of ebook readers, it's not likely traditional retailers will be able to get a foot in the door of the ebook market. Especially now that self-published authors are beginning to gain a following on Amazon.
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Self-publishing boom lifts sales by 79% in a year

By Alison Flood - The Guardian, June 13, 2014

As authors are becoming more established, they get followings, just like mainstream authors, so the self-published market is becoming more like the traditionally published market," [Bohme] said.

"Self-published ebooks tend to be impulse buys, discovered by browsing in genre, or in the recommendation or offer sections. However, they are increasingly planned, via author. [So] price and blurb are the top prompts to buy self-published ebooks, but series and characters are increasingly important."

Read the rest of this article here.

 
 
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Even as half of Europe is sharpening their spears in preparation for a protracted war on Amazon, the self-publishing giant has made it even easier to publish books for children.

The main sticking point of uploading children’s books onto Amazon’s platform has been the difficulty of getting illustrations to convert to Kindle. Amazon appears to have solved that problem with KDP Kids, a publishing platform that allows authors to import illustrations, add pop-ups, and preview illustrated books with Kindle Kids' Book Creator.

More to the point, KDP Kids allows authors to target the parents - the people who are going to buy your book - of children in their demographic.
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Amazon Unveils KDP Kids

SourcePublishers Weekly, Sep 04, 2014

In a move designed to attract and support children’s book authors and self-publishers, Amazon has launched KDP Kids, a children's-focused illustrated and chapter book category in the Kindle Store.

Amazon is also introducing the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, a set of authoring tools designed to facilitate the creation and production of kids’ digital titles for the Kindle format, including illustrated titles. Commenting on the launch and ability to create illustrated books, Kindle senior v-p Russ Grandinetti said, “No one should have to be a computer programmer to create a beautiful, illustrated book for kids."

The move marks the continuing growth of digital self-publishing in general as well as the growing number of children’s books already available via KDP. Under the new KDP Kids category, authors will also have access to the Kindle Kids Book Creator, which offers software tools (available for Windows and Mac OS) that can take advantage of Kindle format features like pop-up text, previews and the importation of illustrations.

KDP Kids authors can prepare their prose or illustrated books, upload them to KDP Kids and use a variety of filters for age, grade and reading levels to place the title and attract the specific customer leveled for their titles. Through the KDP Kids platform, authors can earn up to a 70% royalty depending upon book price.

KDP Kids authors will also have access to Kindle Marketing tools such as Countdown Deals and Free Book promotions. They are also eligible to enroll in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s e-book subscription service, and the Kindle Lending Library.

 
 
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In this week's round of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars, Amazon is taking on Japan.

Amazon is exploiting its position as Japan's largest book retailer by ranking publishers according to how much they pay Amazon. The publishers with the highest ranking are given top billing on the Amazon Japan website.

Publishers are calling it "blackmail." 

Amazon is calling it "business as usual."

The manipulation of Amazon Japan is just one more in a long string of extortionist tactics that include removing pre-orders from books published by "uncooperative" publishing companies (Hachette and Macmillan), and removing new video titles from Disney and Time Warner. So far this year, Amazon has incurred the wrath of the FTC, the Author's GuildGermany, and France as well as thousands of authors.

But in spite of being dissed by the German Minister of Culture, Amazon continues to expand. It has gobbled up Goodreads, where it immediately began deleting reviews it found unfavorable, and purchased Twitch, the video-game livestreaming site (where it will no doubt employ the same tactics). Meanwhile Amazon has cut royalty rates on audiobooks, leaving many self-publishers in the lurch.

And the year ain't over yet.
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Book publishers shout foul over Amazon Japan's new ratings

Asahi Shimbun, August 28, 2014

By Mayumi Mori/ Staff Writer

Online retail giant Amazon Japan introduced a new system this summer to rank book publishers, a decision that has not gone down well with its business partners.

Amazon Japan is the nation's largest book retailer for paper and electronic media. Its new system gives higher rankings to publishers that pay higher fees to Amazon Japan and to publishers with larger eBook catalogs.

Additionally, eBooks from publishers ranked higher are given more prominence on the Amazon.co.jp website.

Many publishers, including high-profile publishing houses, have protested the move, calling it a form of "blackmail" that exploits the company's considerable dominance in the book retailing industry.

"Wouldn't antitrust authorities start to wonder if Amazon Japan is taking advantage of its monopolistic position in the market?" said Bungeishunju Ltd. when it protested to Amazon Japan in June.

Japanese publishers are continuing to hold talks with Amazon Japan.

Disagreements between parent company, Amazon.com Inc., and publishers are intensifying worldwide.

In the United States, 900 renowned authors protested against Amazon for putting pressure on publishers that resisted the company's demands to lower eBook prices by delaying the shipping of their books.

Media analyst Satoshi Osawa said if publishers start to only focus on dealing with the retailing giant, "it could lead to lower quality of their products."

An official with Amazon Japan's public relations department said, "It's difficult to comment because the issue deals with individual contracts."

 

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