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Amazon battling on multiple fronts, Japanese publishers now protesting

updated 06:13 pm EDT, Sun August 31, 2014

Japanese publishers calling Amazon to task for abusing market position

In addition to its fight with publisher Hachette and UK booksellers, Amazon is also battling a series of Japanese publishers. In the process of launching a new ranking system in the country, Amazon Japan is alienating publishers, giving higher rankings to sellers that pay a larger percentage of income back to Amazon, and also boosting search results of publishers that hold larger back catalogs for sale on the service.

The deal, with details reported by The Digital Reader, notes that publishers are calling it economic blackmail, and claims that Amazon is using its dominant position in the country to abuse publishers.

"Many publishers are in talks with Amazon to renew their two-year contracts, but this time they're facing heavy demands from the company, which has grown rapidly here," said an anonymous publisher to AFP, fearing reprisal from Amazon. "If this kind of practice continues, small Japanese publishers who have created a diverse publishing culture here will be forced to go bankrupt."

"We're not sure if linking promotion and commission fees to book circulation ... is a fair business practice," said another source regarding the dispute. Five publishers are boycotting Amazon for this, and other related business matters, with 2,700 titles not being available on the service as a result.

Amazon has declined to comment on the matter, calling it "linked to publishers" and private as a result. While the dispute doesn't exactly mirror that of Amazon's fight with Hachette, multiple companies boycotting the marketplace is a sign of growing dissatisfaction with the bullying tactics of Amazon.

by MacNN Staff



  1. chimaera

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 04-08-07

    Originally Posted by NewsPosterView Post

    Amazon Japan is ... giving higher rankings to sellers that pay a larger percentage of income to the seller, and to other publishers that hold larger back catalogs for sale on the service.

    Uh ... what? So Amazon Japan gives higher rank to publishers who give bigger kickbacks to themselves? As written it sounds like they give higher rank to publishers with bigger profit margins.

    The second part, higher ranks to bigger publishers, might be a statistical oddity. Bigger catalogs will result in more entries in a top-1000 list for example. But the percentage-of-income part doesn't compute.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    I'll clear the language up. Amazon is the seller.

  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    These conflicts exist because Amazon wants to tilt new contracts still more in its favor. As the article notes, that means it wants to extract more money from larger publishers (ultimately higher book prices) and further disadvantage smaller publishers and independent authors (less book diversity).

    Keep in mind that for over a decade Amazon has been tilting search results to make more profitable (for it) items more prominent. Less profitable items, even when they're books being searched for by their title or products by the maker & product number, may disappear entirely. An Amazon lawyer admitted just that to me. If you want an honest search of Amazon's product offerings, use Google not Amazon. I've seen cases where doing that would save 20% or more. As one Amazon software developer told me, "Never trust Amazon's search results."

    What Amazon may be doing in these contract negotiations is adding yet ways for suppliers to pay for preferential treatment. In addition to lowering their wholesale price to Amazon, which may trigger anti-trust actions when the Amazon-subservient Obama administration is out of office, they want publishers and others to make direct, give-me-preference payments. These are akin to publishers paying extra for a large book display at the front of the store of food companies paying to have their products displayed at eye-level. Those might be less likely to result in anti-trust action.

    In short, Amazon executives are preparing for the election of a Republican president in 2016, one that won't use the DOJ and Chicago-machine politics to cripple Amazon competitors such as Apple.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    I think the first three paragraphs of the above are accurate, and Amazon doesn't give a crap about the potential effects of the fourth.

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