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posted by martyb on Saturday May 17 2014, @06:40PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the amazon-administering-last-writes? dept.

Amazon controls a big chunk of the book distribution business but as this New York Times article indicates they are not a benevolent overlord--using a number of techniques to bully publishers for more favorable terms.

Over the years this has been a constant problem for small, specialty publishing houses (the source of many important books), but now it's also affecting the majors.

From the article:

The retailer appeared to be using three main tactics in its efforts against Hachette, which owns Grand Central Publishing, Orbit and Little, Brown as well as many other imprints.

One is simply warning that books will take a long time to show up. Amazon has been relentlessly expanding its delivery ambitions, and just this week announced Sunday deliveries in 15 more cities, including Austin, Tex., and New Orleans. Its two-day free shipping program has more than 20 million members.

But if a reader wants a Malcolm Gladwell book from Amazon, "Outliers," "The Tipping Point," "Blink" and "What the Dog Saw" were all listed as taking two to three weeks. A Spanish edition from another publisher was available immediately.

Then there is the question of price. "Outliers" was selling Friday for $15.29, a mere 10 percent discount. On Barnes & Noble, the book was $12.74.

With some Hachette authors, Amazon seemed to be discouraging buyers in other ways. On the top of the page for Jeffery Deaver's forthcoming novel "The Skin Collector," Amazon suggested that the prospective customer buy other novels entirely.

"Similar items at a lower price," it said, were novels by Lee Child and John Sandford.

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Thesis on Saturday May 17 2014, @06:51PM

    by Thesis (524) on Saturday May 17 2014, @06:51PM (#44679)

    I refuse to login to a site just to read an article. NYT can DIAF.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Appalbarry on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:55PM

      by Appalbarry (66) on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:55PM (#44692) Journal

      I wasn't asked to log in, so YMMV.

      • (Score: 2) by carguy on Saturday May 17 2014, @08:45PM

        by carguy (568) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 17 2014, @08:45PM (#44697)

        OP here -- I didn't have to log in to see the NY Times article either. Does NYT enforce, "you have read too many pages today (this week, etc), now you have to log in"?

      • (Score: 2) by etherscythe on Saturday May 17 2014, @09:02PM

        by etherscythe (937) on Saturday May 17 2014, @09:02PM (#44702) Journal

        Nor I (note that I have NotScripts installed, YMMV). Additionally, you may find that doing a Google search for the headline will give you a link which shows the entire article. There's some kind of marketing program at work I'm sure, and I hesitate to recommend a solution that may contribute to lock-in (recall that Google own like 85% of the online advertising market, and deals like this may be part of the reason why), but it is at least an option.

        --
        "Fake News: anything reported outside of my own personally chosen echo chamber"
        • (Score: 2) by tathra on Saturday May 17 2014, @09:24PM

          by tathra (3367) on Saturday May 17 2014, @09:24PM (#44704)

          i block all cookies by default, but leave NotScript turned off since it blocks far too much and as far as i can tell there's no way to whitelist sites. turning notscript on sent me again to NYT's login page, but probably because i just clicked the link with it off. i will remember to try that though since we seem to get quite a few links from NYT, and i refuse to view "accept a cookie from NYT" as a valid solution.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Angry Jesus on Saturday May 17 2014, @08:47PM

      by Angry Jesus (182) on Saturday May 17 2014, @08:47PM (#44700)

      > I refuse to login to a site just to read an article. NYT can DIAF.

      If you use these firefox add-ons to increase your privacy you serendipitously get to bypass a lot of paywalls:

      Self-Destructing Cookies [mozilla.org] (so the paywall can't track you across visits)
      RefControl [mozilla.org] (tell it to spoof the http-referrer to be google.com so the site thinks you always clicked in from google)

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Appalbarry on Saturday May 17 2014, @06:59PM

    by Appalbarry (66) on Saturday May 17 2014, @06:59PM (#44680) Journal

    Via the National Writer's Union: Amazon screwing over Print On Demand companies. [nwu.org]

    Recently, Amazon announced that it is requiring on-demand publishers and authors to use its print-on-demand (POD) division, BookSurge, if they want to sell their titles as print-on-demand on Amazon.com.

    Instead of competing on a level playing field with other POD companies such as iUniverse or Lightning Source, Amazon is flexing its muscles as the dominant retailer of books sold online. This could hurt authors who self-publish through POD by limiting their choice of printers to Amazon's own company.

    Publishers use electronic files of books sent over the Internet and printed on demand at retail sites to save on printing, inventory, and shipping costs and to reduce the risk of over-supply (unsold books) and pulping costs. With POD, publishers can sell books at lower prices to gain more sales.

    With domination of the POD supply chain, there would be little restraint on Amazon's capacity to impose monopoly pricing on fees it could charge for the use of BookSurge’s POD services or on the discounts it could demand of self-publishing authors and publishers for access to Amazon's share of the on-line POD market – a share that, with this new BookSurge imposition by Amazon, can only grow.

    Via lots of places, [salon.com] Amazon of course a pretty poor employer:

    Amazon's system of employee monitoring is the most oppressive I have ever come across and combines state-of-the-art surveillance technology with the system of “functional foreman,†introduced by Taylor in the workshops of the Pennsylvania machine-tool industry in the 1890s. In a fine piece of investigative reporting for the London Financial Times, economics correspondent Sarah O’Connor describes how, at Amazon's center at Rugeley, England, Amazon tags its employees with personal sat-nav (satellite navigation) computers that tell them the route they must travel to shelve consignments of goods, but also set target times for their warehouse journeys and then measure whether targets are met.

    All this information is available to management in real time, and if an employee is behind schedule she will receive a text message pointing this out and telling her to reach her targets or suffer the consequences. At Amazon's depot in Allentown, Pennsylvania (of which more later), Kate Salasky worked shifts of up to eleven hours a day, mostly spent walking the length and breadth of the warehouse. In March 2011 she received a warning message from her manager, saying that she had been found unproductive during several minutes of her shift, and she was eventually fired. This employee tagging is now in operation at Amazon centers worldwide.

    As a consumer I honestly love Amazon.com, but as a member of our society I have serious issues with how they do business.

    • (Score: 2) by Angry Jesus on Saturday May 17 2014, @08:54PM

      by Angry Jesus (182) on Saturday May 17 2014, @08:54PM (#44701)

      I heard a comment on NPR the other day to the effect that Amazon watches sales rates of vendors in the "amazon marketplace" and if you end up doing a lot of business, they will muscle in on your business.

      The example given (which my google-fu has proved too weak to locate) was of a guy selling imported vacuum cleaners - he was going gangbusters and then Amazon decided to get in on the fun and source directly from the manufacturer giving them a pricing advantage which their system puts up right next to the marketplace user's own listing which basically put the guy out of business. It really sucks that Amazon is so dominant that you have to rely on them at the same time as they are a potential competitor, the power dynamic is way out of whack.

  • (Score: 1) by turgid on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:15PM

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:15PM (#44682) Journal

    Amazon treat their staff dreadfully [theguardian.com] apart from not paying taxes and bullying suppliers.

    Vote with your wallet [ethicalconsumer.org] and chose a more ethical (and often cheaper) alternative [ethicalconsumer.org].

    • (Score: 2) by lx on Sunday May 18 2014, @04:45PM

      by lx (1915) on Sunday May 18 2014, @04:45PM (#44920)

      Don't forget their treatment of third party merchants. In the US [seattletimes.com], UK [theguardian.com] and Germany [yahoo.com].

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:30PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:30PM (#44685)

    Amazon wants to destroy the ability to make a profit by reducing margins to near zero. They want to put everyone else out of business. Then they'll commit suicide.

    So Amazon is doing what they're supposed to do. I'm always surprised when their suppliers and investors don't seem to understand Amazon's purpose. Sure, they started with books, because it's an industry that used to have too much inefficiency and fat to cut. But they want to do it to everyone in the retail sphere. Amazon has never wanted to make money. They want to make it impossible for anyone to make money.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:43PM (#44689)

      If that's true, then why? What would motivate an organisation to do that?

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by turgid on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:53PM

        by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:53PM (#44691) Journal

        If they can claim that they don't make a proft, and they have few assets, the pay very little tax.

        If they can put the competition out of business, one day they will have a monopoly and can charge what they like.

        Finally, what they are really about is extracting as much money from the customer as possible and getting as much of that money as possible, the maximum proportion possible, into the hands of the share holders.

        Staff, logistics, buildings etc. are costs to be controlled. Providing goods and services to the customers is an inconvenience and they do it in the cheapest possible way to keep the customer satisfied enough to keep coming back.

        • (Score: 2) by tathra on Saturday May 17 2014, @09:29PM

          by tathra (3367) on Saturday May 17 2014, @09:29PM (#44705)

          so what you're saying is they're exactly the same as every other company ever?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17 2014, @07:50PM (#44690)

      They want to put everyone else out of business. Then they'll commit suicide.

      ...And then as soon as they're gone, other vendors spring up. Thats a pretty silly conspiracy plot you're trying to pin on them.

  • (Score: 2) by starcraftsicko on Saturday May 17 2014, @10:33PM

    by starcraftsicko (2821) on Saturday May 17 2014, @10:33PM (#44712) Journal

    Before we demonize Amazon here, let's remember that they are fighting to take money out of the pockets of the book publishers. They also work to take money out of the pockets of the Recording Industry (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Industry (MPAA). These last two we love to call the MAFIAA here and on other tech and freedom interested sites. All three groups represent middle-man schemes that fight to maintain their own monopolies. Amazon's efforts, historically, have benefited consumers in measurable ways. Not so with the MAFIAAs.

    I do feel bad that some lady sold fewer cookbooks because the publisher she sold out to wants to keep a larger cut than Amazon wants to allow. And frankly, some of Amazon's tactics are... low. But in the grand scheme, Amazon is working for me in this one. The publisher could solve this problem instantly by lowering it's MSRP (and presumably it's wholesale prices). Instead Amazon is negotiating it down.

    I think I'm OK with that.

    --
    This post was created with recycled electrons.
  • (Score: 1) by Corelli's A on Sunday May 18 2014, @02:20AM

    by Corelli's A (1772) on Sunday May 18 2014, @02:20AM (#44756)

    From TFA:

    Brad Stone's book on Amazon, "The Everything Store," said the company's negotiations with publishers were so hostile that a veteran of its book group had post-traumatic stress disorder after leaving the company.

    Negotiations can be difficult if you are the less-powerful adversary, but is it reasonable to be surprised about Amazon's power now? I'm curious what tactics led to PTSD. On the other hand, hey, a talking book!

  • (Score: 2) by AnonTechie on Sunday May 18 2014, @07:42AM

    by AnonTechie (2275) on Sunday May 18 2014, @07:42AM (#44806) Journal

    The real reason that Amazon does this is because THEY CAN ... As simple as that.

    --
    Albert Einstein - "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18 2014, @05:30PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18 2014, @05:30PM (#44936)

      ...and it's very close to the reason you feel good when you get the best price for your house when you sell it or your car when you trade it in.

  • (Score: 1) by darkfeline on Monday May 19 2014, @02:59AM

    by darkfeline (1030) on Monday May 19 2014, @02:59AM (#45073) Homepage

    Over the years this has been a constant problem for small, specialty publishing houses (the source of many important books), but now it's also affecting the majors.

    And whose fault is it? Oh, how does that quote go again?

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me--
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

    --
    Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!