Saturday, June 14, 2008

Amazon in meltdown?

The great Amazon debate has at long last made it on the pages of one of our national dailies, in this instance, The Daily Telegraph. An article on the online edition, written by Nick Allen says the online retailer could be facing a strike by authors and publishers as it becomes embroiled in an increasingly bitter dispute with publisher Hachette Livre.

All the groups titles have seen their buy buttons removed in a dispute over terms. These books are still available via Amazon marketplace through re-sellers and third parties, but as the article states, the publisher does not earn a bean from these sales.

Actually this is not strictly true. It is true that they earn nothing from the sale of second hand books, but not true when it comes to third party sellers, since these have to buy the books from somewhere, and it is not other retailers. No, they get their stock direct from the publisher, or through the usual wholesalers, whose terms are just as high as Amazon's. Amazon has been singled out not because of what they have done, but because of the dishonest way in which they have done it, by going from one publisher to the next, lying about the terms negotiated with rival publishers and using this as a battering ram to get others to comply. This is not something that wholesalers do, as their terms are equal across the board and totally transparent.

This move then is aimed at forcing Hachette to sell to Amazon on terms which are simply put, unacceptable. As CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson said: "In Britain the terms publishers give to retailers are the highest in the world and more than half of the price of a book goes to the retailer. We have collectively been too soft in our negotiations and we are trying to make a stand. "Amazon put pressure on us and took the 'buy' button off a number of prominent authors' books on their website. We don't like it and our authors don't like it."

As Amazon continues to grow, Mr Hely Hutchinson warned that independent book sellers, as well as authors, would be the victims. Given their current state of growth, it is entirely possible that within five years readers outside the major city centres may face the prospect of having no choice but to either buy online, or obtain books from supermarkets, which do not exactly carry deep range.

While it is true that Amazon has helped authors, in particularly the self published and independent ones whose books are not stocked by the larger chains, this dispute has the potential to seriously undermine their sales and credibility.

To punish the authors, without whom Amazon would have no business, is seriously not on, and they would be wise to remember that without us to write the books, there would be no business. There is after all, only so much we can and will take, and Amazon have pushed just that little too far. It is heartening then to see such support for Hachette, with authors standing firm alongside and backing them all the way, even if it does affect their sales.

Of course none of this is really new though, since like I have said, so many times on this blog, the British publishing trade does sell their wares at much higher discount than any other country in the world. I never have thought it fair or reasonable that 40 percent of the cover price from my own book goes to the retailers who sell it, when all they do is press a few buttons and place it on the shelves. In contrast to this, in return for my five years of work writing this book, I earn the princely sum of £1.39 per copy. This is why I had to return to work, and this is why I am no longer around to help promote it, by telephoning book stores and being there to drive business. This is also why in February, those 71 books arrived back on my doorstep from Gardners.

That though is hopefully about to change, as at the time of writing they have just 18 copies in stock. Since they re-order when the level drops to 15, I am hoping and praying for 3 more orders before Thursday, so that I can despatch the 40 remaining copies that are still in my loft on to them before I depart for Lundy on Friday morning. So, if you wish to buy a copy then you know what to do - get down to your nearest friendly bookstore (or Amazon if you really must) and get ordering!

This will be an incredibly busy week for me, since I also have a missing parcel to track down, which was inadvertently sent to our old address (don't ask me how), and the village newsletter to finish. In between all of this I have to work every day between Monday and Thursday, go to the gym, get all my laundry done ready for the off, back up my computer files, fill up the car with petrol, check my tyres, lights, oil and water, pack my bags and collapse in a heap of exhaustion. It is just as well that I am owed five hours from work, as at least it means (with any luck) that I can go home early some days and make a start on all this 'stuff'. By the time I do get the island, at this rate, I will be fit to drop. Still, it will be worth it when I see her sailing into view.

I am so looking forward to this holiday, as it has been one hell of a stressful year. A year that has seen my hopes and dreams come crumbling down, as I have finally had to concede that despite my best efforts, I will probably never achieve the level of success of which I have dreamt. Still, I have achieved an awful lot, far more perhaps than most POD authors, since the books are stocked in an increasingly high number of Waterstones stores and independents, where they are selling very well indeed. Somehow though it has never felt enough, and so this year, I have had to learn to be happy with what I have got and stop beating myself up quite so hard.

This has entailed facing many demons and destructive belief systems, but with Corans help and support, and some good books written by some very talented authors, I am getting there.

No comments: