Amazon allowing second-hand booksellers to "win" buy buttons

The Bluestocking

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Amazon has apparently started allowing third-party book re-sellers to "win" buy buttons on book pages:

New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/...-program-draws-ire-of-publishers-authors.html
This may mean another bite out of publisher and author profits.

The Authors Guild has issued the following statement:

Amazon’s Taking Another Bite of the Publishing Pie - The Authors Guild
https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/amazons-taking-another-bite-publishing-pie/
Thoughts?
 

Brian G Turner

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As a customer who to date has made a habit of buying second-hand books, I wouldn't see it as a problem.

IMO it simply underlines the bigger problem that the pricing model publishers are using is all wrong:

- bestsellers @ £3-4
- ebooks at £6-7
- every other paperback @ £9+

I'm not sure this is really going to affect self-published authors too much, as we are generally more focused on ebook sales, with paperbacks being a smaller and secondary channel.

2c.
 

tinkerdan

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Looking at this from an author's POV.[Print on demand]
I have already found it troubling that the number of used books available outnumber the number of copies I've sold.
Because I'm POD and I'm not absolutely sure how deep the layers are between Xlibris and the sellers they deal with are, I would be hard pressed to claim I wouldn't get money from sales that are new.[Except if there really are that number of used available (then I'm totally confused).]

However some of the pricing is so ludicrous that I'm not all that worried that the button will always pass to Amazon since their price is usually the best. When they run out (and this is where I'm not sure if they would just have a few more printed or wait until there is an order) this option at least keeps the hard copies available.

I've made most of my money off the e-books.

However from that ridiculous place of avarice, I keep thinking how nice it would be to get the royalty off of the 108.00 edition being advertised.
 

Flannery

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On another forum, we're trying to figure out what Amazon's motivation behind this new policy. The one that I can see as a possibility is the desire to force trad-pubs into Amazon's pricing strategy. There was a Huffington Post on the same thing earlier that seemed to suggest that this was a way for Amazon to manipulate prices on print books from traditional publishers. (I can't post a link yet to the article as I'm too fresh of a face to do so, or I would. :p) Here's the relevant quote from the article:

Amazon, once again, is attempting to drive down the value of books, and therefore intellectual property and creative work in general. I’ve argued in the past that Amazon price fixes e-books by fostering a system in which authors get better royalties if they price their books between $2.99 and $9.99. In this scenario, Amazon is rewarding the seller that conforms to its rules (“competitive pricing”) by granting them the coveted buy button. Dropping the publisher listing to fourth is an affront, and it seems very likely that publisher listings will fall off the buy page completely—at Amazon’s discretion of course.​

The article also makes mention of how this could affect self-published authors, suggesting that it's a way to herd POD indies into their own print-book services. The author says, "This poses a major problem for self-published authors and any backlist author whose books are print-on-demand. Print-on-demand automatically means there’s no stock. The books are printed to order. If Amazon is penalizing books that are set up as POD titles and favoring third-party sellers who have stock due to any of the abovementioned means of procurement, authors will again be dinged when their own listing, or publisher listing, doesn’t exist on Amazon." Then she goes on to speculate that KDP POD and Createspace won't be affected the same.

As an indie, I'm not sure how this is going to affect me. It makes me a little nervous though. I'd probably be a lot more nervous if I sold more print books, but for my longest-running book--out for just over a year now in M/M romance--I've only sold 25 print copies. I sell way more ebooks and KU reads than print, so I don't really pay too much attention to it. If a second-hand bookstore wants to sell my POD book used, I have no problem with it. They bought it; I got my royalty the first time around. We're all good. But for authors who work with a traditional publisher, though, I can see this being a much larger worry, especially if a bookstore is selling books that were meant to be pulped from a print run that didn't sell through. Then those authors aren't seeing the royalties that are due to them.
 

Danny McG

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I do the same thing Jo.
Bundles of used paperbacks for miniscule amounts and there's always some gold amongst them. Found a lot of new authors that way but I wouldn't have paid the eye-popping prices printed on the books or initially quoted.
Am moving more and more to ebooks nowadays due to ear bashings about my books 'taking over every flat surface in the house'
:)
 

Biskit

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Because I'm POD and I'm not absolutely sure how deep the layers are between Xlibris and the sellers they deal with are, I would be hard pressed to claim I wouldn't get money from sales that are new.[Except if there really are that number of used available (then I'm totally confused).]

You might want to chase Xlibris - it was something I looked at and rejected due to the number of complaints I found on line, not an actual scam, but inclined to sharp business practices. If it's the Xlibris I'm thinking of, it's part of Author Solutions who don't seem to have a very good reputation eg: Author Solutions – Writers Beware! by David Henderson | Guest Post | The Independent Publishing Magazine
 

tinkerdan

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My experience with them was favorable up to a point and I'm not sure where CreatSpace was when I started working with them::
You might want to chase Xlibris - it was something I looked at and rejected due to the number of complaints I found on line, not an actual scam, but inclined to sharp business practices. If it's the Xlibris I'm thinking of, it's part of Author Solutions who don't seem to have a very good reputation eg: Author Solutions – Writers Beware! by David Henderson | Guest Post | The Independent Publishing Magazine
::You do have to be selective with what you sign up for. If you just go for some basics with editing that amounts to line editing at best and then the setup and distribution for Hardcover Trade Paperbacks and e-books you can get some good deals that might cost about what a good editor would cost. Unfortunately it turns out the editors leave much to be desired.

Any advertising and promotional campaigns are too costly with no guarantee and I think that's where they really fall down on the job. They try to push those because it's big money; however they are not very effective. There is also a sort of author service that's a forum for author advice and other content that they claim to give you free with your package; however it's best to stay away from that because to get it free you have to pay the next year and the contract reads that as soon as you cancel the service stops and the only way to get them to stop charging each year is to cancel so the free year never shows up.

Book quality was good and the distribution was great; however there is little control over what happens once the electronic file leave Xlibris and get to the distributors and those act almost like they distribute these books grudgingly.

So yes there is a bit to be desired;however I still maintain that for the money I paid I was given adequate services and a superior product. But I stayed away from the other offers primarily because the few free advertising perks they gave with the plan were a sorry representation of what they could do or perhaps were spot on which means they suck at that.

My books were published before and around the Author Solution acquisition. I have one more book to publish in that group and though I'd love to finish the way I started, I'm pretty sure they'd have to bend over backwards to get me to do it this time.

The highlight of the experience was having the extra eyes to edit it and as that turns out it wasn't as professional as I hoped; though it was still quite a lot of help.
 

Flannery

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Here's another scary scenario, as mentioned in an article just published on New Republic, "Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry":

Finally, there’s the possibility that this is a ploy to create another revenue stream. The Authors Guild says that several publishing sources have surmised that “Amazon is attempting to coerce publishers into using its print-on-demand (POD) services.” Amazon’s thinking is that, if a book were to unexpectedly go out of stock, then it could be printed immediately, essentially solving the whole stock problem. (POD, Amazon has argued, would also increase delivery times.)

Publishers see this as a slippery slope. Book publishers’ entire business model is based on advance sales—on retailers buying books in bulk from the publisher and then selling them to consumers. Switching to a POD model would disrupt a supply chain that has existed for decades. More importantly, it would also essentially make Amazon the printer for much of the industry’s stock, giving the retailer even more clout—and allowing it to extract more money from publishers.

Seen in this light, this change to the buy button could work as leverage for Amazon in negotiations—let us print books on demand, the company could say, and we’ll make sure the buy button never goes to third-party sellers.​

The article also talks about how Amazon might be using this as a way to either push their need to keep stock on hand to third-party sellers or looking to entice publishers to buy more space on their stock shelves to keep control of their buy button. It's an interesting article. (I have thirteen more posts before I can post a link. I'm working on it! :D)
 

Vertigo

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On the other hand are authors not potentially profiting from ebooks in as much as you can't sell ebooks second hand (assuming that is still the case)? So if I want ebooks (which I and many others now seem to prefer) then buying second hand is not an option. Whereas in the past before I started reading ebooks I certainly bought far more second hand than new. So the ebook market has the potential to generate more actual sales for authors than the pre ebook market.

The two provisos I'd add to that are 1) pirating and 2) if I've got it wrong about selling ebooks second hand. On the latter my understanding is that we can't do this for the same reason that we can't inherit someone's ebook collection, because they are actually only 'licenced' to the original buyer rather than any physical 'thing' being bought that can be re-sold or inherited. Incidentally I believe this is also the case for any other downloaded media such as music or films.
 

tinkerdan

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I can see this being a concern::
Finally, there’s the possibility that this is a ploy to create another revenue stream. The Authors Guild says that several publishing sources have surmised that “Amazon is attempting to coerce publishers into using its print-on-demand (POD) services.” Amazon’s thinking is that, if a book were to unexpectedly go out of stock, then it could be printed immediately, essentially solving the whole stock problem. (POD, Amazon has argued, would also increase delivery times.)
:: However I can't help thinking that it's another case of the Traditional Publishing paradigm having problems coming into the new century.

For some background:: As a POD publisher I was interested in going to B&M Barnes and Noble locally and doing some promo of my book. Presently what that requires is to use a local traditional printing house and purchasing a truckload of books[or coming up with a feasible business plan that will get the printing house to bend their rules] if they were already doing POD then I could have just ordered what I needed--or what I thought I needed.

So how does this fit the amazon bid::
Easy they already have infrastructure for the POD. They get electronic files from from publishers and send them to their POD printer. They do a large volume of business with them so they can easily order 10 copies per run; because the system is setup that way. The only possible problem with this is if accountability gets muddled, which I think is a current valid argument. They would have to have a system whereby whenever a specific book is printed that the POD publisher gets a full accounting of numbers. [This is where I have my concerns because there are more used books available for my titles than were printed according to the accounting system.] So there is that. But I don't think that's a major issue.

None of this means that the traditional avenue needs to totally change what they do. They could still require stores to order X number initially. They could even use their own POD printer to distribute from; though it might become more feasible to have a printer close to the target location or even allow the stores to have their own appointed POD printers. There would just have to be that bit of accountability. And if they force a print of X number they would still have to offer some return policy in the mix for any store that can't sell that number. So things don't change too much in that area depending on how much the publisher wants to change.

That much said what this does on the benefit side:
It means that the book can continue to be available because it doesn't rely as heavily on the old model of single large runs that may never be repeated if the sales are not there. POD allows it to be available because it allows for single unit to be printed.(Although I seriously doubt that that happens, it's likely to be that if they need more to fill an order they will have a minimum run and fill inventory.)

I think amazon is making perfect sense in that they can reduce the need for excess stock and concentrate on pulling what they need from the available POD printers.

I think that if they make it work and get enough traditional publisher involvement, that it could change the face of publishing[Finally].
 

Brian G Turner

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Finally, there’s the possibility that this is a ploy to create another revenue stream. The Authors Guild says that several publishing sources have surmised that “Amazon is attempting to coerce publishers into using its print-on-demand (POD) services.”

That's a very interesting point to raise. Self-publishing via POD means the book is always in stock, and I can see Amazon ensuring that Createspace/KDP Print product lines are protected against intrusion by third-parties.

However, genre fiction in general has a terrible reputation for going out out print. I remember trying to pick up a few Hugo and Nebula award winning titles from the 1990's only to find them no longer in print. IMO this is one area that Amazon could make a real argument for POD services to publishers.

Which might actually work for the customer, Amazon, and publisher - but also mean that authors with out of print titles they do not yet have the rights to should perhaps try faster to acquire them - because those are the sort of people most likely to lose out from such an arrangement.

Just initial thoughts. :)
 

Flannery

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That much said what this does on the benefit side:
It means that the book can continue to be available because it doesn't rely as heavily on the old model of single large runs that may never be repeated if the sales are not there. POD allows it to be available because it allows for single unit to be printed.

This is a good point and potentially a positive way of viewing this change. Essentially it could mean that smaller presses are brought onto more of a level playing field with the big five. The big five are the go-to publishers for a lot of trad-pub authors because they have the ability, along with things like cover and editing, to finance a big print run that will then be distributed to a large number of stores. (And allegedly more marketing, but marketing for midlist and new authors is often only marginally better than indie authors spamming Facebook with ads and using AMS.) If both publishers big and small are put into a POD market where they're not expected to finance a big print run, leaving the print purchase choices in the hands of a bookseller, then it means publishers can essentially put their money elsewhere. They could potentially offer the same attractiveness to authors as a big-five publisher in the form of more money for author advances and actual marketing of their product to encourage bookstores to stock the books. In that case, I think both author and publisher could come out in the plus column.

Furthermore, it could mean fewer charge-backs by a publisher when bookstores return the unsold books to be pulped. I've always thought the traditional system of selling books on consignment was way outdated. That's been the system since the Depression in the 1930s. Maybe that's the benefit of Amazon pushing traditional publishing into a POD system: to force them to come into the 21st century instead of dragging their feet and sticking to antiquated business models as they are wont to do.
 

Phyrebrat

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I have used ABEbooks fir years now to get my books. I was under the mistaken impression I was managing to avoid Amazon until Brian or Jo told me they are owned by Amazon.

With that in mind, why would they need to implement another second-hand system? Are they going to phase out ABEbooks?

pH
 

Vertigo

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I don't think so; second hand books have been available directly from Amazon for years now without supplanting AbeBooks. All that seems to have changed here is they are putting it a bit more in your face so to speak. Although you can get almost any second hand books from AbeBooks I think are more biased more towards collectible second hand books than Amazon.
 

HareBrain

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second hand books have been available directly from Amazon for years now

And new books masquerading as "like new" used ones, bizarrely. What seems especially open to abuse here is that Amazon says it will give preferred status to used sellers who have the book "in stock", but I'm almost certain the three used sellers of mine on Amazon can't have it in stock, unless they've bought it new (or are covers for wholesalers/distributors, which is what I've heard can happen). The whole thing is a bit of a swamp, with attendant odour.
 

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