It’s already hellishly difficult to earn a living as an author (that’s why so many also write articles, or take on freelance work to make ends meet), and in the UK the average author income falls below the minimum wage (that’s right minimum, not living). The reasons are many: consolidation in traditional publishing, online piracy, and, of course, Amazon which has set the precedent for book prices far too low for publishing houses to compete off platform. Amazon uses books as loss-leaders because it’s business model can support it, in fact they seem to be making a point of driving down book prices so that they can corner the market.
All of this has been making it harder and harder for publishers to make money, and this means that authors are making less money… but on a more worrying note it means that publishers have less capital to invest in the kinds of challenging, risky books that might usually have been given a chance. So Amazon is also dumbing down the book market to focus on pulpy, popular genre fiction (which is great, but it’s not ALL we want to read) and celebrity biographies.
And now they’re taking another big, wet bite out of publishers and authors by changing the way their buy box works. The Huffington Post covers it in detail, but the gist is this; the default option when you buy a book will no longer be the copy which comes from the publisher (the copy for which Amazon must give 45% of the proceeds to the publisher), but has been changed to an algorithm which prioritises low prices. In fact, if the nominated seller doesn’t have the book in stock Amazon misleadingly lists it as out of stock. You have to navigate a series of options to see any other sellers at all.
While Amazon, and the publishers, may sometimes win the “buy box” more often than not it’s third party sellers who will. Third party sellers that pay money to Amazon, but not Publishers.
But why should Amazon give a fuck, right? They get paid and we’ll put up with it as always; publishers will sell to them, and we’ll buy.
Well, not me, and hopefully not you; support your fellow writers, support authors, and support the publishing houses that make all those hardbacks you love possible. Don’t buy your books from Amazon.