Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Amazon put the cosh on sellers again

I sell some books on Amazon, and they've just decided that you can only sell on their site if your prices there are at, or lower than, the prices you charge elsewhere: eg ebay, or abe (which they own, for goodness' sake) or your own site (and they also own Chrislands, who provide my sales site, so goodness knows what the long term implications are there).

This is added to the fact that Amazon already hit you for 17.5% commission every time you sell a book, in addition to the hit on the postage credit - currently 49p. So yes, the buyer may think every time you pay the £2.75 that that's going to the seller, but Amazon take their cut of it. Why? They're not buying the packaging, doing the packaging or taking the postage. And you pay a monthly fee (£28.75) as well for the privilege of listing on their site.

On my site I deliberately charge less than Amazon so that I actually sell paperback books. I think my paperbacks are generally very good value compared with Amazon: the vast majority come in at less than the penny books on Amazon once you add in postage, and the difference is even better if you buy more than one book, as I have a special paperback rate.

I am fed up with having the cosh of Amazon continually wielded around my head. My paperbacks are better value than Amazon, and with me you get a specialist service; the website; the forum and the blog. You will NEVER get all of that from Amazon.

Amazon have far more power than they ought, and they're not above trying to wield it. They tried with Print on Demand books, and it was only due to the perseverance of a small American publisher pushing Amazon to court that Amazon eventually backed down. Amazon have threatened to remove the Buy Now button for publishers who won't agree to their terms.

It makes me wonder about the long term future of Abe, which Amazon own, and on which many book dealers also sell. Amazon must be aware that their new policy will have an affect on Abe as well. One of the major differences Abe allows the seller over Amazon is that you can set your own postage charge: so no £2.75 no matter how often or how much postage prices go up. So, if you sell on Abe and Amazon, you will have to either raise your prices on Amazon so they equal your Abe price, or drop your Abe price substantially.

If Ebay have even half an ounce of sense, they will currently be working out how to attract booksellers over to them. Even Ebay have at last realised that their policy of imposing free postage on sellers in an attempt to compete with Amazon was a non runner.

Well, from now on I am boycotting Amazon, and I fully expect that as this policy will not have been reversed by 31 March, when I have to adhere to it, my books will no longer be listed on Amazon. I have cleared my Amazon shopping basket, and it will stay that way. If I have to wait to get a book, I'll wait.

More on the how the corporates are squeezing the independents here.

6 comments:

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

How can they possibly know what price you charge on other sites? I hadn't heard of this policy until I read your post, but I have multiple different accounts on Play, Ebay etc and I don't see why Amazon would ever find out which ones are linked to me - surely it is more effort on their behalf than is needed. There is no way they can enforce this, in a continually fluctuating market.

Jane Badger said...

They do police their policies: you're not supposed to put your own promotional literature in with a book bought via them, and I know a bookseller who was told she could no longer sell with Amazon after sending out her own bookmarks with books.

I would imagine they will have some poor bod who will do spot checks, or else build some algorithm that will be able to compare prices listed on sites like Addall. Don't think it's impossible, alas.

I do note though that this policy is only being trialled in the EU, and not in American, where it's almost certainly illegal.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I've just been on the Amazon forum and it says that they've had this in the US for two years, so it looks as though it isn't illegal over there.

Bowleserised said...

This has been truly eye-opening.

Helen said...

Good lord, that is amazingly ridiculous! How on earth would they know that you don't have two similar copies of the same book on different sites? I sold a load of stuff on there a few years ago, but when I tried listing stuff on more than one site I got into all sorts of messes with multi-selling, so I've just stuck to ebay lately, who whilst I have many many issues with them at least let me put paragraphs in my description and add lots of photos. It's coming to something when ebay is the best of a bad bunch....

Anonymous said...

Many sellers are just ignoring Price Parity and waiting to see whether Amazon have the will and the ability to enforce it. These sellers are also 'disbursing' their funds at every opportunity so that their money isn't held by Amazon in the event of their accounts being suspended or closed. They are also taking every opportunity to reduce their dependence on Amazon.

It is possible to use technology track whether the same item is used on different sites - especially if you use the same seller name and SKUs.

I think it is more likely that Amazon will rely on customers and other sellers to police this policy.

There is no mention of Price Parity in Amazon.com's Participation agreement - so did they quietly let it drop or were they forced to?

Amazon seem to forget that sellers are also buyers - and so are their friends, relations and colleagues. I, for one, am now buying from Play, The Book Depository, Wholesalers and Biblio.