Keith Gascoigne

Writer's Blog


Epublishing: Amazon behaving Badly

Amazon are behaving unethically and for a major world-wide company with practically limitless access to money, that is worrying.

Amazon are involved in an argument with Hachette Book Group in the US and, according to reports, haven’t supplied ordered books coming from Hachette to would-be buyers because, as the chief executive of Hachette has stated, ‘Amazon are seeking to change the terms of agreement’ and to Amazon’s advantage. At the same time Amazon are putting pressure on ebook authors and publishers in the UK, that again favor Amazon, at the expense of the ebook authors and publishers.

Amazon is becoming all-powerful with their owning most of the online sources of books and ebooks – the Book Depository and Abe Books, among many others, and nearly have a monopoly on books sales on the WWW. They have a lot of power so they can press their terms on other publishers and also ebook writers.

Amazon also have exclusive arrangements where the ebook author can only deal with Amazon which claims exclusive rights and denies the author any chance of selling elsewhere. This ‘exclusive-rights’ deal is restricting for any author but many authors still go for this deal although it is not in the author’s best interest. Amazon also state that if a published book isn’t available they will print and sell their own POD copies. In short they will print and sell their copies and could also take the major share of the profits. They shouldn’t really have the right to do this – morally and ethically.

This could be the start of a worrying trend that allows distributors, sellers of books and ebooks like Amazon to dictate the terms and also take the major share of the profits.

I am a (recently started) ebook writer-publisher although, at the moment, I do not publish on Amazon but all the same it is disturbing that one of the major sources of books and ebooks on the WWW at the moment is trying to change it’s terms to make itself more profit and at the same time cut into the profit of publishers and author-publishers.

The vast majority of writers of books and ebooks make very little monetary return for all their hard work. Writing is hard work and now Amazon want more and more and more. Admittedly many writers write as a side-line, so getting a reasonable income doesn’t bother them because they either already have a good income or they have made enough money to support themselves while they write but for many writers, myself included, the meager income from writing books is all there is.

Writers of books and ebooks have a lot of power as well as Amazon because there are a lot of us around and we are the source of all the books and ebooks that Amazon need to sell. We have the power to stop Amazon doing this because we can stop selling our work through Amazon. Well, that is the ideal but many writers, unfortunately, don’t consider the ramifications of their actions when they sell through Amazon, which is the fact that many writers need a fair return for their labors in order to live and keep writing.

So, if you write books and ebooks and sell them through Amazon please consider all this and stand up to Amazon’s immoral practices because if they succeed with this one then they’ll do it again and again until the only people who make money out of books of any kind will be the people who sell them to the reading public.

We shouldn’t let Amazon, who have a lot power, do this when we also have a lot of power collectively. We don’t want to destroy Amazon we simply want a fair deal that is mutually beneficial.

For more details see:

The bookseller: Amazon pressing for new terms in UK

The UK Guardian newspaper (Guardian deep links do not work) - ‘New Amazon terms amount to ‘assisted suicide’ for book industry’ and also ‘As Amazon slugs it out with the big publishers, authors are left cowering’ .

See: The Federation of European Publishers (FEPP), which is surveying its 28 members to assess whether they are all coming under similar commercial pressure from Amazon.

As a comparison, Amazon has probably paid during the last 10 years, corporation tax of around £10m in the UK. Over the last 4 years Amazon had sales of around £23bn and paid around £3m in tax the previous year. Is this fair to we struggling tax payers in the UK? To be fair to Amazon, as much as I want to be, this appalling tax situation is produced by the inadequacies of the British government to change the rules so that Amazon, legally, have to pay a fair tax in the UK from their sales in the UK. In case some have missed it, Amazon-UK is based in the low tax country of Luxembourg.

I think that all we want is fairness. Is this too much to ask in 2014 or has ‘fairness’ finished and is greed the King?


Class: Epublishing, writing, morals, politics

Tags: big money, competition, corruption, ebook authors, ebooks, writing.

Published: 2014-06-30.