Reader Friday: Thoughts About Changes To Amazon’s “Buy” Button?

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Amazon’s recent decision to allow third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on its book selling pages has stirred up a controversy within the publishing industry.  Some publishers, agents, and authors charge that the change will reduce the sale of new books, driving down sales and revenue.
(Until now, the buy button on book pages automatically linked customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. After this change, the Buy button could direct customers to resellers offering previously owned books.

What do you think about the new Buy button policy? Does it pose a significant financial threat to authors or publishers?



10 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Thoughts About Changes To Amazon’s “Buy” Button?

  1. We seem bent on building systems that deliver an ever-slimmer slice of the publishing pie to those who produce content. Unless we think that driverless cars should be followed by author-less books, we should be thinking of ways to provide value to the reader/viewer/consumer that don’t impoverish (or drive out of existence) the writer who produces the material.

  2. I’d be more concerned for the consumer than for the author here. What u see happening is someone who thinks they’re buying a new book receiving a used book instead because they didn’t read the details close enough. They’re just used to the but button leading to a reputable seller. Those people who want to buy a used book are going to buy used books regardless. They won’t spend the money on a new book, so those aren’t actual customers you’re losing by this system (it’s the same argument made for pirated material: those who pirate are typically people who would have never paid anyway, so no sales lost).

  3. Of course it does. We make nothing, and neither do our publishers. Case in point. About four weeks ago, I ordered 17 paperbacks from my publisher for a signing. When the box arrived, it was empty. I contacted the PO. They told me the box had been damaged during shipping, but they’d file a report and IF they found my books, they’d ship them. The books never arrived. Big shocker there. So, my publisher had to reorder new copies, which they paid for since I’d paid for the first batch. They also had to pay for higher shipping, which reduced the number of paperbacks I received. Guess who’s selling those books now? Not me.

  4. I read comments on a Facebook thread about this. One woman said she’d only had 25 books printed, 10 books sold, but the ‘buy’ button was already taking people to others selling her books ‘used’.

    As I understand it, Amazon claims to equate this with any third-party sellers of goods – as long as the goods are new, the buy button could go to a third-party seller. To Amazon, it seems ‘new condition’ is good enough for books, even if it’s not good enough for other items. As for selling books as ‘new’ from third-party sellers… the only ethical way to sell ‘new’ books is through the publishers. Any other copies were either given away, sold as remainders, or stolen. And it doesn’t seem Amazon cares which it is.

    Of course, Amazon has never really cared about the writer, and actively dispises the publishing industry. They see authors as mere production mules who insist on being paid and publishers as the evil competition, despite the fact that they wouldn’t be what they are without either of these sources for their works.

    Of course, a few years ago they had an April Fool’s joke where they’d created a computer that could write whatever book a customer wanted. The customer just had to tell the computer the genre, style, and what they wanted to see in it. If you ask me, though, I think they were crowd-testing the idea, to see if it was worthwhile.

    • Call me cynical, but I suspect this is a loss leader strategy by Amazon to gradually undercut the market share that is still controlled by traditional publishers . Amazon will lose a few of their own new book sales at the beginning, but they will accept those losses in order to reduce the sales revenues they have to share with publishers. As publishers lose market share and suffer revenue losses, Amazon will gradually tighten its control of the overall market for new book sales. (I also think they’re dismissing the role of authors as a trivial factor in the process. )
      To counter Amazon’s tactics, Publishers need to cut a better deal with authors than the deal being offered by Amazon. So far, traditional publishers have been sticking to their old sales model, resisting anything that would offer authors A bigger share of revenues. If they don’t learn how to compete more effectively, it’s likely they’ll continue losing market share to Amazon.

      Of course, when I mentioned the idea of revenue sharing between publishers and authors to an agent a few years back, she recoiled like I’d dropped a toad onto her dinner plate.

  5. Amazon has never been authors’ or publishers’ friend. Years ago, they were the one who introduced the “used” button near the “buy” button. This is the point where Amazon went from being perpetually in the red to making a solid profit, and publishers and authors took a financial hit. This is just more of the same.

    Amazon will always be after the big buck, creators be damned, and those who sing Amazon’s praise as a friend of authors are totally ignorant of their past behavior or incredibly naive. Amazon looks after Amazon.

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