More than 1,100 German authors protest Amazon’s treatment of book publisher Bonnier

6 Comments

Credit: Amazon.de

While Amazon and Hachette’s contract battle drags on in the U.S., a similar fight is taking place in Germany between Amazon and book publisher Bonnier. Now 1,188 German, Austrian and Swiss authors have taken a cue from their U.S. counterparts and signed an open letter to Amazon, accusing the retailer of “using authors and their books as leverage” to force larger discounts on ebooks.

Amazon has been delaying Bonnier book shipments (as a result of keeping fewer Bonnier titles in stock). The letter also accuses [company]Amazon[/company] of removing Bonnier titles from “Customers Also Bought/Viewed” lists, thus harming discoverability of new authors and misleading customers. The letter is set to run in German, Austrian and Swiss publications Monday, according to the New York Times. “Discussions and demonstrations” are apparently also planned for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.

Book prices in Germany are fixed, so discounting ebooks isn’t allowed. However — as in the U.S. — Amazon wants a larger commission on the Bonnier ebooks it sells. In June, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein) asked German antitrust authorities to investigate the matter. In response, Amazon said at the time, “[Bonnier is] asking us to pay them significantly more when we sell a digital edition than when we sell a print edition of the same title.”

6 Comments

Jonas M Luster

Understanding this requires an understanding of German publishing models. For the past five decades German authors regarded themselves (Austrian, too, Swiss not so much) as a powerful elite. In fact, becoming a published author in Germany was something one studied for, paid one’s dues, joined many expensive organizations, and paid respects to the old power elite.

Using tools such as the Libris Block, which was used to block newcomers from appearing in book store searches or library catalogues, this elite controlled who published, what they published, and when they did so.

Amazon and Co. are challenging this power structure. Being able to publish and sell was (and is) a right earned via schmoozing, bribery, and acceptance of draconian author-publisher contracts. Now everyone can. In the battle of Hachette vs. Amazon it’s not about writers or readers but exclusively about the middlemen and who gets to filch both sides for as much money as possible while controlling entrance.

The 1,100 signatures are partially writers who fear for their hard earned quasi monopolies, partially ones who bought into the “Writing 2.0 is harmful” narrative Hachette has so powerfully lobbied for, and partially those who missed the boat and want back to their old typewriter and smokey backroom deal world.

Amazon isn’t a competitor, it’s an evolution. Not better, not worse than Hachette or Bonnier, just the new predator in the jungle — and the old one hates that.

Lucas Cole

Contact one of these publishers and wait for a response. Contact Bezos as a customer or vendor with a legitimate concern and he will respond personally or through an executive assistant. Integrity.

dieseltaylor

Entertaining to see how bigbox America tries to change the way the most successful economic country in the world operates. Not as though the US with its poor, and ill, and its under- educated is any poster for the US capitalist system.

dieseltaylor

Entertaining to see how bigbox America tries to change the way the most successful economic country in the world operates. Not as though the US with its poor, and ill, and its under- educated is any poster for the US capitalist system.

Warehouses full of badly paid employees driving down the profits, or driving to destruction bookshops around Germany, is not actually that attractive in terms of fuller employment, town centres with shops, better tax base, and the ability to browse. Of course having the Amazon profits sneaked into Luxembourg and then to the US is not that attractive either.

Madlyb

I completely get why Amazon is doing this, and in many ways I support them, but they are the ones that are coming off heavy-handed in these situations.

They should let these idiots price themselves out of the market and instead support the publishers and authors that understand and embrace the changes occurring in their industry…

…the market will do the rest.

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