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German book association demands investigation into Amazon’s publisher negotiations

Hachette isn’t the only big publisher that Amazon(s AMZN) is playing hardball with — across the Atlantic, the retailer is also engaged in contract negotiations with media group Bonnier over its German business. Amazon has allegedly been delaying Bonnier book shipments in Germany, and it’s believed that the company is seeking larger discounts (for itself, not for readers) on ebooks from Bonnier publishers. On Tuesday, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein) announced that it filed a complaint against Amazon with the Federal Cartel Office, asking it to investigate.

“Amazon is putting significant, coercion-like pressure on Bonnier to get the publisher to concede unjustified advantages during its ongoing negotiations,” the Association says in its 22-page complaint.* It pegs Amazon’s share of the print and ebook market at around 70 percent.

The Association notes that so far, Amazon is limiting its shipment delays to older Bonnier titles, rather than “new releases and bestsellers,” but that Amazon may be saving that step “as increased leverage for the negotiations.” The complaint cites media reports that claim Amazon’s main demand is a larger commission on ebook sales — 40 or 50 percent of an ebook’s retail price, rather than the 30 percent it receives today.

The complaint also says Amazon’s influence extends far beyond book sales, implying that if a book can’t be found on Amazon, customers may assume it doesn’t exist: “Consumers use Amazon increasingly” as a “kind of inventory catalog” to “quickly inform [them] about what books are available on specific topics. If an author or even a book by this author is not available on Amazon, the reader assumes that there are no (new) books by this author.”

On Tuesday evening, Amazon denied that it’s delaying Bonnier shipments, saying that it is actually holding fewer titles in stock. It also confirmed that it’s seeking a larger commission on Bonnier ebook sales.

Stateside, meanwhile, it appears that Amazon is close to settling its contract dispute with Warner Bros.: Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal both reported Monday that Amazon is making Warner Bros. DVDs available for pre-order again.

*The quotations in this article were translated with the help of either Google(s GOOG) Translate or our resident German speaker Janko.

5 Responses to “German book association demands investigation into Amazon’s publisher negotiations”

  1. Timothy Green

    Amazon is not solving costs. They are asking for a larger part of the pie (perhaps due to their quantity, or because they are just so awful excellent that clients really like them above others). Amazon says if you say No, then I’m not promoting your item. Definitely nothing incorrect with this. Some individuals think Amazon murdered the competitors. No. The Competition sat on its rear and still is. When I buy a $100 item, I don’t buy from Amazon because they stored me $10 of delivery. I buy from Amazon because I have the choice of providing to a locker, and the opinions and explanations provide me assurance in what I’m purchasing.

    Dukan Diät Plan

  2. A Ch0w, sneeze

    This is funny. If you are big enough, governments feel they can force you to sell other people’s products at a price you don’t want.

    Both Google and Apple are quite capable platforms for Hachette to take their books, not to mention Kobo and Barnes & Noble and a dozen other smaller companies. Fact is, it’s so trivially easy for someone of Hachette’s means to also start a competing store (credit card, choice of cloud hosting, small team of developers and sysadmins) that attempting to punish Amazon for anything herei s going to be hard to justify. It’s the same thing with Google and it’s so-called monopoly on search. All it takes to switch is to type something else in your browser.

  3. Huh. And Apple got taken to the cleaners by the US DOJ (per Amazon’s request) for asking for 30%.

    You know what? All the publishers oughta get together and agree to stand up to this monopolistic bully….uh, never mind. Guess that didn’t work out so well last time.

    • A Ch0w, sneeze

      Amazon is not fixing prices. They are asking for a bigger piece of the pie (perhaps due to their volume, or because they are just so darn good that customers love them above others). Amazon says if you say No, then I’m not selling your product. Absolutely nothing wrong with this. Some people think Amazon killed the competition. No. The Competition sat on its backside and still is. When I buy a $100 item, I don’t buy from Amazon because they saved me $10 of shipping. I buy from Amazon because I have the option of delivering to a locker, and the reviews and descriptions give me confidence in what I’m ordering.

      When i go somewhere else, I wind up with 2 failed delivery attempts and return to sender (because I go to work and don’t sit at home all day waiting for the courier)… If I were a retailer, I’d shamelessly copy Amazon (I also shop at because guess what, they will deliver my stuff between 6-9pm for £7!)

      Apple tried to get a good cut for itself and also dictate what the goods should cost every where else. This is price fixing.

      • Amazon is a great service, no doubt about it. But they are nearing or at monopoly status, with a stated policy of putting everyone else out of business. Do you ever shop locally and support local merchants, even if it costs you more? Certainly your choice, but nice to have bookstores around.

        As far as Apple pricing. This is the same pricing the established for iTunes back in 2003 and it remains one of the few bright spots for musicians to make money. The offer the same deal to everyone as opposed to cutting separate deals, typically paying far less to indie’s.