In protest of what’s being called a monopoly by bookstores small and large, Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe will no longer offer books published by Amazon Publishing.
“While we acknowledge that any business has the right to control distribution of its products within the legal framework of fair competition, we believe that our decision is in the best interests of our customers, the publishing industry as a whole, and the next generation of emerging authors who will benefit from the introduction and promotion of their works through brick-and-mortar bookstores,” wrote Gayle Shanks, Changing Hands co-founder and former American Bookseller Association president, in her monthly newsletter.
“I’m fighting for equity and equality in the marketplace, but I’m really fighting for this community,” Shanks told the Tribune. “It’s a sad community that doesn’t have an independent bookstore.”
Changing Hands joins Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, the nation’s largest and second largest bookstores, to stop selling books by Amazon Publishing authors.
“I would definitely call it a monopoly,” said Brandon Stout, public relations manager for Changing Hands, 6428 S. McClintock Drive.
Amazon, long known as an online bookseller with below average prices, broke into the book publishing world in 2010 with its own publishing company and its own host of authors signed to the publishing house.
With exclusive e-book content only available to the Kindle store and Amazon’s “demanding” of lower prices on e-books from publishers, Stout believes that it has created a monopoly in the book publishing world.
“That’s what happens when you give them too much power,” Brandon Stout said. “One company in vast control of literature, all in the name of profit is dangerous.”
In 2007, Amazon changed the way many people buy and read books by creating one of the first successful e-readers and e-bookstores.
“Many people think that ‘Kindle’ is the name of e-readers, much like people call tissues ‘Kleenex,’” Shanks said.
Changing Hands sells not only new and used books at its store in Tempe, but also e-books online at its website, www.changinghands.com for well-known e-readers or devices including Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Reader and Apple’s iPad and iPhone. Works from Google’s eBooks collection, available on Android devices and computers, are also available, as well as those for Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
But the problem isn’t that Amazon sells books for lower prices or even its e-reader’s name recognition; it’s that of the authors who publish with Amazon Publishing, the e-books will only be sold through Amazon.com for the Kindle.
“Amazon authors’ e-books and books become proprietary to Amazon; the e-books are only available for Kindle,” Shanks said. “It slices through the market.”
Barnes & Noble agreed and pulled all of the Amazon published titles from its stores last month. For those who do wish to buy those titles, Barnes & Noble made them available only online, according to a company spokesman.
“Our decision is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent,” said Jaime Carey, Barnes & Noble chief merchandizing officer, in a press release. “These exclusives have prohibited us from offering certain e-books to our customers. Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content.”
Consensus between small bookstore owners and big-box stores is in sharp contrast to the fight for a spot in the marketplace over the last few decades — a fight which was immortalized more than a decade ago with the fictional Fox Books and The Shop Around the Corner in the film “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
For once, it seems the two are on the same side.
“I would say that they’re playing by the rules,” Shanks said about Barnes & Noble.
The same could not be said of Amazon, Shanks said.
Authors, even some well-known ones such as Deepak Chopra, are signing with Amazon Publishing for a larger cut of the proceeds raised from book sales, Shanks said.
However, for a company that has been known to take a hard-line business attitude toward profits, Shanks is worried about the future of literature.
“Amazon is taking the cream off the top,” she said, by offering appealing contracts to authors.
In most other publishing companies, a top performing book might allow the company to take a chance on an unknown author or a book of poetry, Shanks said.
“There is no money percolating down for the smaller, unknown authors,” she said.
Additionally, Amazon is in the process of renegotiating agreements with many publishers for their e-books.
Talks fell through two weeks ago when Independent Publishing Group and Amazon failed to reach a deal. Amazon pulled IPG’s 5,000 titles from the Kindle store. Print editions are still available through Amazon.
“They decided they didn’t like the terms we offered, and we said, ‘We’re not going to change,’ and they removed them,” IPG President Mark Suchomel told the Chicago Tribune.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has tried to negotiate with publishers to set prices lower than competitors.
Last year, Random House decided it would set the price for its e-books, meaning that Amazon couldn’t undercut other retailers and offer their customers a better deal than what could be found at other online stores, according to a press release by American Bookseller’s Association, a not-for-profit trade organization for independent booksellers.
“We have believed from the beginning that the agency model is in the best interest of not only the book industry, but the consuming public as well,” said ABA’s Chief Executive Officer Oren Teicher in the release from last February. “We appreciate the careful and thoughtful deliberation Random House has brought to this issue, and applaud their decision to adopt agency pricing.”
Repeated phone calls and emails from the Tribune to Amazon went unanswered.
In addition to new and used books, Changing Hands hosts book readings, meet-and-greets with authors, and sells cards and other items.
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