family run company based in Oxford called Blackwell Science Limited, or blacksci.co.uk which is now part of wiley.com. Consequently, I’ve a few friends and former colleagues who still work in various parts of the publishing industry. Last week I got an email from one of these friends who works for a small independent book publishing company: I’ve reproduced an interesting email message about Amazon from them below (with permission):My first proper full-time job was working in the big bad world of scientific publishing for a
This is very unlike me but I am sending a general email out because I am so outraged by something I feel I must share with you. In case you didn’t already know, I work for a small publisher. Times are hard – we all know that. Amazon.co.uk form a large part of our business. Recently they have changed their terms with all of their publishers. For us, and many other small and independent publishers, these new terms are completely unacceptable. We have no say about it and the way they went about it was frankly nasty (they basically sent an email out giving us a week to decide whether to give them more discount or more credit). For bigger publishers it may have a negligible effect but for smaller publishers, where cashflow can mean everything, the effect will be severe! And they have us over a barrel.
Amazon.co.uk so dominate the online market in books that they are almost a monopoly. The discounts we’ve been supplying Amazon for the last few years are outrageous – but what they have done recently is the last straw, and many small publishers could go out of business (luckily I think we’ll survive!). I am so outraged at how they are treating their suppliers that I am now boycotting Amazon for my own personal books and CDs. I have been using them for years and years. The only way to put a bit of healthy competition back into the system is by having more online book retailers become as successful as Amazon. Today we used The Book Depository bookdepository.co.uk for the first time. The books we wanted were all there, in stock and cheaper than Amazon and it was very easy to use. So we’re trying to help spread the word!
Another online retailer is waterstones.com, which separated from Amazon a few years ago due to their unworkable terms. I haven’t used them myself but I hear they are pretty good, and play.com can fulfil your DVD and CD requirements (and all delivery is free I think).
They may not always be as cheap as Amazon but now you know how Amazon get their low prices you may not be as happy to use them – if small, interesting, independent publishers go out of business it’ll just be the biggies left (which will mean much less choice).
So, is the behaviour of Amazon.co.uk just the all too familiar face of capitalism? Or should we boycott Amazon for being a big bully only interested in monopolising the marketplace and getting rid of some healthy competition?
- Catherine Neilan (2009) Amazon refused to budge on new terms, Bookseller.com 2009-03-30
- Liz Thomson (2009) Advantage Amazon? Publishers react to proposed new terms Bookbrunch.co.uk 2009-03-26
- Richard Stalman (2001) (Formerly) Boycott Amazon! – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation (FSF) gnu.org