Monday, February 01, 2010

Amazon May Have Gone too Far This Time

I have been reviewing on Amazon for 9 years this month. I've actually been getting very tired of how they are treating reviewers these days. It's very hard to get your review seen unless you are one of the first few reviews. And the new ranking system they introduced a year and a half ago really hurts you if you get negative votes. I've been reviewing up a storm since then, and I've dropped about 50 places. Yes, it's an ego thing, but it does hurt.

I may be about to drop a whole heck of a lot more places. I may be about to walk away from Amazon to only review at Epinions.

Why? Not because of anything they've done to me, but because of what they did this weekend with Macmillan.

If you aren't in the know, Amazon and Macmillan got into it over the price of books on the Kindle. Macmillan wanted the prices of new books that have just been released to be set around $13-$15, with a decrease in price over time and as cheaper versions of the book come out. Amazon wanted to keep the price at $10.

When Macmillan refused to give in, Amazon pulled all the books by Macmillan authors. That would include Kindle and paper copies.

I'd actually noticed this before the story hit over the weekend. An author I like has a new book coming out tomorrow. I was looking at the page, and saw that they didn't list the publication date any more. I was confused but thought maybe it had been delayed. I remembered his publisher today and put the pieces together. Ironically, they are still honoring my pre-order. The book was mailed today (while the DVD set also coming out tomorrow and shipped with a faster speed hasn't been.)

Over the weekend, we got two responses. Macmillan's CEO gave a reasonable sounding explanation. Amazon, however, sounded like a spoiled brat, even saying the Macmillan had a monopoly on their books. (Right. And Amazon doesn't have a monopoly on the Kindle.)

Apparently, Amazon pulled something similar in the UK with a publisher over there, too.

I realize I have given Amazon lots of free publicity over the years with my reviews. I've been fine with that. But if this is how they are going to act when a publisher doesn't give in to their demands, I'm getting close to being fed up.

After all, the reason I started writing those reviews was the help the authors. And if their books could be pulled on a whim, I'm not helping them. I'm better off sticking with Epinions (where I get paid for my work).

Now, that's not to say I think Macmillan is completely right here. Many people have been complaining about the price increase at Amazon. People are used to a $10 price, so if you are suddenly going to raise it, they will complain and boycott.

But I don't get Amazon's unwillingness to let Macmillan try and fail. After all, if the price is too high, no one will buy it. As they play with a price, they'll find the spot where they make enough to cover the costs. That's how a free market system works. But I get the feeling that Amazon is so worried about getting their market share now and becoming a monopoly, they don't care about anybody else.

Now, Amazon claims they've backed down, but all the authors I've checked who are published by Macmillan still have their books unavailable as of this writing. If Amazon has truly backed down, they should have been restored by now.

Now, I'm not saying I won't write another review for Amazon. I'm going to give this some time and see what I think. I do know the two reviews I had planned to post there in the next couple of days aren't going to happen. They'll be Epinions exclusives.

But I am certainly leaning toward not only not writing any more over there, but taking down all my reviews. I will certainly make them the seller of last resort instead of first resort for upcoming book purchases.

If you want to read some more articles on this, here are a couple of good ones:

All the Many Ways Amazon So Very Failed This Weekend
Why My Books are No Longer for Sale Via Amazon
And for more on the laughable monopoly claim, check out Nabisco Has a Monopoly on Oreos.

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