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Friday, June 2, 2017

The Main Problem with Amazon's Third Party Book Sellers and What I Do About It




It’s never boring in the world of indie publishing. Most recently, Amazon began allowing third-party-book sellers to win the “Add to Cart” Buy Box.

This means that customers who want to buy a new book and click “Add to Cart” may never see Amazon’s price but instead buy from a third-party-vendor, with many customers believing that they are buying from Amazon.

Various independent authors’ and publishers’ organizations are protesting Amazon’s move, stating that it disadvantages authors and publishers. Bloggers are chiming in and offering ideas how indie authors and publishers should deal with the issue.

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Reminder: Third-party sellers have always sold books on Amazon.

Amazon’s Marketplace, which allows third-party-vendors to sell merchandise side-by-side with Amazon, started selling used books in 2000! During the company’s early days it helped Amazon to become the “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.”

Even today, in the days of print-on-demand the Marketplace can be extremely helpful in building indie authors’ reputations.

For instance, in 2005 I discontinued selling my alphabet book obvious LETTERS on Amazon. Before the development of educational computer games the book was quite popular and sold around the world. Much to my delight, even today a Japanese third-party vendor offers one copy on Amazon.

To be precise, this vendor offers a used copy of my book for more than double the original sales price.

Though I won't be making a single penny from his sale I am not jealous. His offering my book in Japan proves that my book sold around the world.





The fact that Amazon keeps out-of-print books “alive” is a huge advantage for authors.


So, why are indie authors and publishers complaining? 

Amazon’s latest change affects the selling of new books; often books that are printed on demand.
Some bloggers speculate that at least a few third-party-sellers are selling used copies as new copies.

My personal $2.00 catastrophe

Unfortunately, I know exactly how indie authors and publishers feel about this third-party-vendor issue because I already walked that path, inadvertently.

Months ago, long before this new change was enacted, I noticed a third party vendor selling a copy of one of my books for $1.99. I almost fainted when I saw this offer.

Who are these people?
Do they want to ruin me?
Why are they offering my book priced below production costs?
Where did this book come from?

Eventually, I calmed down enough to guess where the book came from. Three weeks earlier I myself had given away half a dozen of these books.

I am a nonfiction author who writes useful books which I update whenever needed. Most of my books have been updated at least once.

Example:



Like most indie authors I buy paperback copies to

  • give them to reviewers and bloggers, 
  • hand them out to media people to introduce my work, 
  • enter them in award competitions,
  • and similar activities. 

Occasionally, I publish a revised and updated edition or change the cover of a book even though I still have copies of the “old book (condition: new).” Personally, I find it immoral for me to sell outdated copies on Amazon or Ebay. After all, I know that a newer version is available because I wrote and published it.

My romantic vision

Therefore, I used to donate any left-over copies to charitable organizations’ thrift stores where they will be sold for a guaranteed low price, typically $1.00 for paperbacks, $2.00 for hard-cover copies.

In my romantic vision doing this helped everybody: people who lived on a tight budget, the charitable organizations, and even me who didn’t want to throw away my “book-babies.”


view of one of nine book shelves in a thrift store in my region

However, my romantic vision fell apart in less than one second when I saw my book being offered on Amazon – for only $1.99, like a cheap, thrown out book.

Bestsellers too are affected.

Buyers who look at the below scenario must wonder if the offered book is “stolen goods”?

(Rumor has it that some Amazon third-party-vendors will offer items dirt-cheap if they are eager to build a record quickly. )



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Getting plunged into this unpleasant scenario a few months ago led me to change my habits – I now destroy my outdated books.

I throw them into the local recycle dumpster.





I also tear my books apart, just in case a dumpster diver happens to come by.

Only other authors will understand how I feel about these developments.

Personally, I don’t have any issues with people hunting down valuable items.

In fact, I would love to hug everybody who will jump into a dumpster to retrieve one my books.

Is there any greater love for books?
(I am not even sure that I would do that.)

I also don’t have a problem with people making a really sweet profit like the Japanese third-party-vendor.

BUT:

I just cannot allow that savvy vendors pick up my books for next to nothing and resell them on Amazon, next to regular priced copies.

Until Amazon does something to control the third-party-book-seller situation better, I cannot donate outdated books anymore.

What are your thoughts?

Please comment in the comment section below.


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Gisela Hausmann is an email evangelist, a PR expert and an author. Her work has been featured in the SUCCESS magazine, in Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg (podcast), on NBCNews, and in other fine publications. 

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© 2017 by Gisela Hausmann 

7 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I did not realize this was going on, perhaps because I'm not very popular. If it would be my books, I would not have enough will power to destroy my books. I would cry! I understand why you would want to destroy them though. If you ever have any old edition you want to destroy, keep me in mind. I would promise not to resell it! I suppose if I absolutely had to destroy books to avoid others reselling them, I'd try to make them into book art, instead of sending them to a landfill.

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  3. @Jessica,thank you for your comment. I think that Amazon needs to rethink the rules.
    After all, Amazon is not a thrift-store. Hence, vendors should not be allowed to offer books at thrift-store prices.

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  4. Very thought-provoking. Thank you for bringing your insights to the rest of us. In the old days, I saw review copies in second-hand bookshops but they weren't competing with new books on the shelf! I can understand why books are pulped but it does seem a terrible waste :(

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    1. Thank you @Jean Gill, will see what happens.

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  5. Yes, agreed. You can't allow items donated out of altruism to be sold for profit.

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