Amazon Accused Of Screwing Small Publishers By Increasing Prices Against Their Will

Jeff BezosAmazon chief Jeff Bezos

Now that Amazon has all but killed off brick-and-mortar bookstores as a source of competition — leaving huge stretches of the globe where online book sales are the only option — it is quietly raising prices via the back door, according to the New York Times.

Big publishers are still able to sell their titles at discounts — thus juicing sales, the Times says.

But academic publishers and individual authors are finding that the discounts they need to tempt buyers are being removed, and their books are becoming more expensive on Amazon.

The company denies the Times’ claim, which is based on anecdotal evidence. “We are actually lowering prices,” a spokeswoman told the paper. “We pay for these price decreases with relentless focus on improving our execution — and this commitment to low prices is one of the reasons our print books business continues to grow.”

Amazon has a PR problem here: It has a long history of skirmishes with small merchants and individual sellers who believe the company abuses its dominant position in book and other online sales. Some merchants, for instance, believe that Amazon’s dominant position in search results screws them out of their own search rankings even when they want to stop selling stuff via Amazon.

And there’s some evidence that Amazon actually needs to start charging higher prices in order to maintain its stock price. Bears who are short on AMZN point out that Amazon’s revenue per unit has dropped by 8%, year on year, making shipping a larger percentage of its cost structure.

That’s why Amazon may be raising the prices of sellers and authors who are to small to negotiate discount offers with Amazon, the Times theorizes:

When Mr. Striphas’s book, “The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control,” first appeared in paperback in 2011, Amazon sold it for $17.50, the author said. Now it is $19.

“There’s not much competition to sell my book,” Mr. Striphas said. “The conspiracy theorist would say Amazon understands this.”

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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