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Amazon’s Catalog Under Attack

Amazon’s Dwindling Catalog

 

While the spread of Amazon’s published book exposure is under threat through the boycott of Amazon spearheaded by Barnes & Nobles last month, Amazon digital book catalog’s wealth is increasingly threatened by publishers’ disappointment at the conditions Amazon is trying to force on them for the privilege of appearing on its shelves.

Last week, the distributor Independent Publishers Group (IPG) refused to capitulate to Amazon’s terms to renew their agreement. As a result, the buy button under the 5000 IPG digital books, from around 400 publishers, available on Amazon was turned off. The print versions are still available, though one would assume that Amazon’s persistence in demanding obedience to increasingly unfavorable conditions for publishers might lead to the print books removal in the next round. IPG is not the first publisher to be removed from Amazon shelves following a dispute over terms. over book pricing involving Amazon. In 2010, Amazon temporarily stopped selling MacMillan’s titles, refusing to price titles any higher than the online book retailer’s $9.99 standard. It was not known if MacMillan offered any concessions to Amazon to get the buy buttons restored.

As IPG is US  second largest independent book distributor, from a strategic point of view, Amazon is now fighting the publishing war on at least two fronts. On one hand, distribution of its own publishing arm is under threat from the boycott and on the second hand, its catalog’s wealth is now being attacked.

The reduce exposure of its own published book might have been ignored as the unequaled size of Amazon’s catalog would ensure that buyers would continue to flock in Amazon online bookshop to enjoy the comfort of finding everything in one place. Yet, if Amazon’s conditions for publishers causes them to leave, Amazon will gradually loose this strategic advantage and because less resilient to boycott attacks.

According to paid.Content.corg IPG President Mark Suchomel sent the following memo to his client publishers:

Memo from IPG president Mark Suchomel to client publishers

I am disappointed to report that Amazon.com has failed to renew its agreement with IPG to sell Kindle titles. As of today, the Amazon.com website no longer offers for sale any electronic titles from any of IPG’s client publishers. All print editions are still available, as always.

As has been publicly reported, Amazon.com is putting pressure on publishers and distributors to change their terms for electronic and print books to be more favorable toward Amazon. Our electronic book agreement recently came up for renewal, and Amazon took the opportunity to propose new terms for electronic and print purchases that would have substantially changed your revenue from the sale of both. It’s obvious that publishers can’t continue to agree to terms that increasingly reduce already narrow margins. I have spoken directly with many of our clients and every one of them agrees that we need to hold firm with the terms we now offer. I’m not sure what has changed at Amazon over the last few months that they now find it unacceptable to buy from IPG at terms that are acceptable to our other customers. Hopefully Amazon will change their stance, but for now we need to make some changes. Please consider taking the following action today, or as soon as practically possible:

1. Every e-mail, ad, website, press release, author interview, and otherwise mention of an individual title needs to include the following: This book is available in print or electronic edition at your local independent bookshop, www.BarnesandNoble.com,www.indiebound.org, iTunes, Kobo, and elsewhere. It is not currently available in a Kindle edition.

2. Inform your authors of the situation and ask them to encourage traffic to those places that carry both print and electronic editions. Our website, www.ipgbook.com, is able to take direct consumer orders, but there is no better way to show our valued customers how much we appreciate doing business with them than to send orders their way.

3. Make available all electronic titles in all versions other than Kindle. Get those last remaining titles into electronic format so that the businesses that do support your titles can start selling them as soon as possible. IPG’s digital team can help you. Contact Digital Content Manager [redacted], for details.

4. Remind family and friends of the value to our society of independent voices and ideas, and that independent publishers and bookstores need to be supported or they will go away.

5. Practice what you preach. Support accounts that support your business. Ask the organizations you support to do the same.

6. Tell your local booksellers that they have access to some electronic books that Amazon no longer does. Accounts can contact Digital Content Manager [redacted], or Trade Sales Manager [redacted].

7. Seriously consider the implications of this action for the long run. If we don’t hold firm on your behalf, your margins will continue to erode. IPG will continue to represent you well to those customers that are happy to buy from us at reasonable terms. If you or your authors were working directly with any large vendor, you would not have the opportunity to push back on or even have a conversation about terms. Your continued support is appreciated.

8. If anyone from Amazon calls you, please let them know that you are distributed by and contractually tied to IPG.

Remember that Amazon continues to be an important account that sells a lot of units. This is a business decision on Amazon’s part, and hopefully they will soon decide to reverse it and buy at our standard terms. IPG will be informing our other electronic book accounts of their favorable competitive position on our electronic titles.

Mark Suchomel

Is he opening a new salvo against the online book retailer giant? Will other publishers join the movement? Time will tell …

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4 Responses to "Amazon’s Catalog Under Attack"

  1. Lissa says:

    Just my skewed two cents worth…I buy a lot of books in digital format from Amazon and B&N. There are many others I’d love to read from the larger publishers, however the pricing these publishers set for digital…$10, $11, $12, sometimes $15 is too high for my peace of mind. I won’t pay that. Once they upload the formatted copy, there’s no overhead. No printer to pay. Nothing more to do. And yes, that’s simplifying it greatly. But I won’t pay it when they want less for the print copy. They have their own game they’re trying to play. Print sales are down. They want them to go back up. And the authors make so little on the digital and on the print… If you want to blame Amazon, go ahead, but the publishers are to blame as well for jacking the prices of digital to where a good number of readers won’t pay for them.

    There’s a series I want to read. The first book, in digital was something like $6. Okay. I’m good with that. The second and third books in the series… $11 and $12 respectively. Ummm. No. That’s ridiculous. The print price? Under $9. Well, I don’t want print. I want digital, and I’ll forgo the whole series. There are books just as good as those for a fraction of the cost and hopefully, where the author’s cut is better.

    I have stopped reading a lot of books from the big NY publishers and their affiliates because their pricing isn’t competitive, it’s outrageous. Some publishers have started coming down in their pricing and I’ve started buying their books again. And you know what? What’s wrong with a company saying ‘No?’ If Amazon wants better pricing for readers. Okay. If the publishers don’t want to play ball. Fine. Amazon says ‘it was nice doing business with you’. What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a company having it’s own policies or even changing them? The publishing climate has changed dramatically. The economy has changed. Amazon as a company has every right to say ‘this is what we want’. And any other company they do business with has every right to say ‘we don’t like that and won’t comply’. If you can negotiate, great. If you can’t, cut your losses and move on. If you as a consumer don’t like it, shop somewhere else.

    Narrow margins? Yeah, the big boys have the power to change that too. Are they? Doesn’t seem like it. They want to capitalize on the fact that their books aren’t available on Kindle as though that’s a great thing now. But they’ve just lost a ton of readers, but then, they were losing them before Amazon said they wanted to change the terms.

    And in the midst of it all, self publishing will continue to grow as will small press. I’m good with that too. The writer now has a larger voice. We should use it.

  2. Rick G says:

    “It’s obvious that publishers can’t continue to agree to terms that increasingly reduce already narrow margins.” and their point #8 stick out at me.

    Note: this isn’t a dig at any authors who publish through IPG. I fully support any an all writers. However, this email just reeks of desperation.

    Narrow margins…on eBooks!? Christ when will people stop peddling the bs that digital media costs the same as physical? If I have a print book that sells 100,000 copies then I still have to incur the costs of printing those 100,000 copies. If I have an ebook that sells that many, it’s all gravy. Case in point both Amazon’s kindle program and Apple’s app store. 70/30 payout in favor of the creator and neither of them is exactly going out of business.

    As for point #8, I believe a translation would be “Please don’t consider jumping ship to Amazon publishing or becoming a self-publisher.”

    1. “Case in point both Amazon’s kindle program and Apple’s app store. 70/30 payout in favor of the creator and neither of them is exactly going out of business.”

      But Rick, in neither case are Amazon or Apple publishing anything. They make no contribution to the work apart from distribution.

      They are distributing indie ebooks, just the same as they do (did) for IPG and other trad publishers.

  3. agathis says:

    “As has been publicly reported, Amazon.com is putting pressure on publishers and distributors to change their terms for electronic and print books to be more favorable toward READERS.”

    There, fixed it for you.

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