Amazon Ratchet it Up a Level For Distributors

The US publishing industry may have another spat on the horizon to accompany the current dispute between John Wiley and The Authors Guild. Amazon is yet again flexing its muscles, this time in the direction of distributors and their publisher clients.
Amazon is introducing a new program called ‘Levels of Service’ (PDFdownload). While there is nothing unusuual about an e-tailer like Amazon introducing new programs, this one suggests access to certain services will be withdrawn if distributors do not sign up. In reality, Amazon want to introduce a system where publishers are rewarded with access to better services and promotional staff if they offer Amazon improved terms of sale. Of course, distributors have to pay for these services already and their are many small and midsized companies fearing the costs will become prohibitive.
As yet, no publishers or distributors were willing to put their name to complaints when Publishers Weekly interviewed them in an article published yesterday.

Back in March, some booksellers reported Amazon UK to the Office of Fair Trading. We reported then:

Last week Amazon UK informed sellers using their Marketplace that they could no longer list book titles on other online retail sites, including the seller’s own site, for less than the listed Amazon retail price. The deadline for sellers to agree to this is Wednesday 31st March, and those sellers who do not agree will face delisting by the internet retail giant.

Over the weekend, the Scotland on Sunday reported that up to a dozen retail stores have complained to the UK’s Office of Fair Trading.

“Up to a dozen stores have now complained to the OFT that Amazon’s actions are unfairly restricting their ability to sell books to customers at lower prices.

Books typically sell for 10 per cent less on some alternative websites – as Amazon charges fees for its services – but the company says it has been forced to act to protect its low-price promise to readers.”

The Office of Fair Trading is currently considering the complaints and will make a response ‘in due course’.    

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