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Troy

Amazon is a Radically New Kind of Monopoly

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I really wish I had the funding to determine the percentage of books, written by Black writers, that are sold, often exclusively, by Amazon. My conservative estimate would be at least 75%, but I would not be surprised if it were 90%.

 

We know;

 

  • By the fall of 2016, the share of online shoppers bypassing search engines and heading straight to Amazon had grown to 55 percent.
  • Captures nearly $1 of every $2 that Americans spend online.
  • Hosts a substantial portion of the largest websites
  • Ships and sells products at a loss until competition is eliminated (the capital markets facilitate this, which also prevents the emergence new potentially better competition. it is Ma Bell all over again)
  • Benefits from enormous, unnecessary, tax benefits
  • Producers compelled to sell on Amazon resulting in lower profits, sales, and/or higher prices
  • Will manufacture 3rd party products they sell selling well then bury the original producers products on their store
  • Sell bootleg products 

 

The New York Times recently reported:

 

“In Amazon’s bookstore, the unruly behavior has been widespread, aided by print-on-demand technology. Booksellers that seem to have no verifiable existence outside Amazon offer $10 books for $100 or even $1,000 on the site, raising suspicions of algorithms run wild or even money-laundering. The problem of fake reviews is so bad that the F.T.C. has already gotten involved.”

 

Despite all of this and more people generally like Amazon.  I also wish I had the time and money to explain to people Amazon's monopolies results in less profit for book sellers, publishers, and authors.  Why readers see less diversity in reading material despite more books being produced than ever before and more. Nothing any individual can do alone will stop Amazon's domination

 

In my corner of the world I am spending the time and energy to divorce myself from Amazon. It is not something I can do over night, because they are so firmly entrenched in the business of Black books -- indeed they own this business -- but I plan to do it. I have to do it. I'm also trying to help authors understand this as well, but authors are often more enamored of Amazon than the general public. 

 

Amazon poses a much larger threat the business of Black books and independent businesses than Google does.

 

 

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@Troy , I really enjoy Amazon! I'm an Amazon associate.  I like its gadgets and how  they showcase the many different ways to market products. I like its ease of use. I like media content streaming and availability of some films, television shows and sometimes music - BUT I would never sell a book on Amazon ever again!

And full disclosure, I do promote amazon books on my websites, I do my best not buy books from the site either.  Amazon is a master of information and I locate the book there and if I find that the author isn't selling it.   I'll buy straight from the publisher.  Amazon is usually the last place I will buy books and here's why.  It is NO secret that  Amazon monetized its business on books - it was their entry into the marketplace.  It was never going to NOT "giveaway" books.  So any author that can't see or understand that, isn't very good at business.  And unfortunately that is what Amazon counts on.    Thank you Troy. Keep up the good work. I hope you post or link this in readingblack.com  too.

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3 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

I do promote amazon books on my websites

 

I do too.  I've been an Amazon affiliate for almost 18 years and have collected payment from them every period since that time.  But here is the thing. Amazon pushes the ebooks that they publish while encouraging authors to give away ebooks for free (even though these authors paid Amazon to publisher their books) or to sell them very cheaply purportedly to build an audience. 

 

Last year Amazon halved the commission they paid affiliates for book sales dropping commission from potentially 8.5 percent to 4%!  This is a dramatic decrease to go from earning 8% on a $24 book to 4% on a 99 cent ebook.  Amazon also reduced the duration of their cookie and other thing that radically reduced commission affiliates can earn.  Sure I still earn money from commissions but the amount of far less that it was a decade ago despite a lot more visitors. Of course if book sellers make less money so do publishers and authors

 

As a result, I have little incentive to sell books as an Amazon affiliate.  The only reason I bother with them now as that readers want to buy their book from Amazon. But as I said I need to rid myself of Amazon.  

 

Also the big publishers are not in the business of selling books directly to consumers.  Though given Amazon's dominance this part of the business model may change; in much the same way as we see producers of video content, HBO, CBS, Amazon, Netflix, etc selling directly to the consumer with their streaming services.

 

18 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

I hope you post or link this in readingblack.com

 

If I repost this on readingblack.com Google will give me the smackdown for posting the same content on multiple pages.  I'm working with a couple of author's right now to work out a way to sell book directly from AALBC and even other platforms such that the transaction or transparent and commissions can be paid.  This will allow everyone to make money.

 

The reality is that this need have a concrete solution then I'll post on #readingblack which I have not shown any love lately.

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Big Five Publishing House – Direct to Consumer SALES
Penguin Random House https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/faqs/#shopping (YES)
HarperCollins Publishers https://www.harpercollins.com/corporate/customer-service/ecommerce-faqs/ (YES)
Simon Schuster https://www.simonandschuster.com/c/help-shopping#checking-your-order-status (YES)
Hachette https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/  (NOPE)
Holtzbrinck/Macmillan UShttps://www.holtzbrinck.com/  https://us.macmillan.com/ (NOPE)

1 hour ago, Troy said:

The reality is that this need have a concrete solution then I'll post on #readingblack which I have not shown any love lately.


U.O.E.N.O. #readingblack.com  NOMO !!

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Gotta hold my hands up here. I buy lots of books on Amazon. Particularly in the Market Place. Some books that I'm after, while not exactly obscure, they seem to be fairly hard to locate at decent prices.  Don't buy e books at all. Some have been out of print for years so I don't suppose I can buy them direct from the publisher. Or can I ? 

Doesnt seem to be any black bookshops that I know of here in the UK but I can pick up some titles from left wing book shops but again full price. I can't afford to be really doing that, unfortunately. 

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@Mel Hopkins I missed replying to your message.  Sure most publishers large and small will sell directly to consumers, but this is a not a practice they generally promote.  They typically sell at full retail and charge for shipping.  This is so that they do not directly compete with wholesalers, distributors, and of course bookseller.s  Direct to consumer sales is not a part of a publisher's business model.

 

Of course self-publishers are almost completely dependent on direct to consumer sales, as they are not publishers in the traditional sense.

 

If I buy a book from, say, PRH I'd get a 50% discount. If I buy the same book from Ingram I get a 40% discount African World books . Of course bigger retailers command better terms.  If I do a signing with an author for a single book I will normally order books directly from the publisher.  However, If I need several titles I will order from a distributor because I can get books from multiple publishers in a single order.  Of course this is another reason authors who sell exclusively through Amazon hurts themselves, because I can't not easily sell their books.

 

@Maurice of course you are not alone. Amazon's monopoly on the sale of Black books makes this the case.  Sure, today you can buy the most popular titles on Amazon at a price below my booksellers discount.  When Michelle Obama's book, Becoming first came out Amazon was discounting it at something like 60% or more (much less than my discount as a bookseller!), couple that with free next day shipping and you have a deal no bookseller can compete with.  Amazon can afford to lose money on the sale of any book.  Wall street will continue to fund them and the government will ensure they can operate as a monopoly with total impunity.

 

49 minutes ago, Maurice said:

I buy lots of books on Amazon. Particularly in the Market Place

 

Sure you do.  But the "market place" is full of booksellers who HAVE to sell their books on Amazon since readers are trained to go directly to Amazon to look for rare or hard to find books -- choosing Amazon even before they go to a search engine (google screwed this up)! As a result, booksellers are forced to sell on Amazon.  Since Amazon takes a cut of every 3rd party sale and forcing bookseller to pay for visibility, I'll leave it to you to figure out if you are getting a better price for a book now that Amazon is involved. I won't even get into the bootlegging of books on Amazon... If Amazon can't put you out of business they'll just buy you like they purchased AbeBooks effectively controlling librarything, shelfari and already owning Goodreads, etc, etc.

 

Again as booksellers are forced out of business choice, diversity, and even availability of books go down. Any student of business also knows that monopolies forces prices to go up and profit to authors and publishers to go down.

 

1 hour ago, Maurice said:

Doesnt seem to be any black bookshops that I know of here in the UK...

 

Of course there aren't, and this is a the tragedy. 

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Every little bit helps.  Readers must patronize the business they are interested in seeing not just survive, but thrive. 

 

Far too many of us, who express an interest Black books don't support the business that produce Black books. Instead we invest of money in Amazon a business that has clearly demonstrated that all they want is our money and if they have to obliterate every Black-owned publisher, printer, or bookseller to do it they will.

 

I'm part of been part of the problem too, but working hard to correct that.

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I last ordered from Amazon less than a week ago. Books,that is. Two actually. Dark Days by Baldwin arrived today and the last one is being sent by snail Mail from the States. Another book, Baldwin related. But that's it. No more. 

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James Baldwin's Dark DaysHey @Maurice I'm doing the same thing.  I'm going to allow my Amazon prime account to lapse as well.  They got over on me this year with the auto renewal.  Plus my kids (grown) who share my account will probably not be very happy :-) I share one's HBO account and another's Hulu. But I pay for CBS all Access so I might still have some leverage.

 

I was unaware of Dark Days by James Baldwin, and I just added it to the site.  

 

Here is the problem.  I can get the book from my distributor so drop shipping (having the distributor ship to the customer on my behalf), for me, is not possible, so I can't sell the book directly -- unless I buy directly from the publisher, which is not practical for me.  B&N.com isn't even selling the book. 

 

How else can one buy this book?

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I only found about Dark Days myself a short time ago. And talking of short, it's only 64 pages long. What the hell, it's another Baldwin for my book shelf 😀

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Audre Lorde book The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's HousePenguin has published 50 books in the Penguin Modern series, all short complications of essays from a variety of popular writers.  There is one for Audre Lorde.

 

The title of Lorde's book, “Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”, is a quote I use often to help explain why tools like Twitter and Facebook, despite the type to the contrary, can never serve as a tool for our liberation. The Arab Spring is a good example.

 

Interestingly, none of them are available from my distributor? It is hard to believe the largest publisher to ever exist (until Amazon over takes them), Penguin Random House would give Amazon exclusive rights to sell the books in this series. Perhaps these titles were pubbed for foreign readers, though right now Amazon seems to be the online domestic (US) selling of the books in the series.

 

Do you recall how you discovered this book, @Maurice?

 

 

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Ahhh yes, while reading a Baldwin biography, the Harlem based one, it was mentioned there. I think . 😀

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New Beacon BooksGood find @Maurice.  did you read the comments from their About Us Page:

 

After celebrating 50 years of achievement in 2016 the directors of New Beacon Books recognised that New Beacon bookshop, as it was currently organised, was not economically viable. The modern book industry with new ways of buying and reading books like Amazon and Kindle and the formation of super publishers and distributors was killing independent specialist bookshops like New Beacon. Very few of the bookshops who started when we did like Bogle L’Ouverture (Walter Rodney Bookshop) or Head Start had not survived to today. The directors took the decision to close New Beacon Bookshop in February 2017.   They calculated that it would take a while to clear stock and reorganise the bookshop. At the beginning of 2017 a group which included Janice Durham (director) Michael La Rose (director and John’s son) , Renaldo La Rose (John’s grandson) and his wife Vanessa La Rose decided they would attempt to keep New Beacon Bookshop going. The individuals came together as the New Beacon Development Group. Calling on volunteers and voluntary work, in the New Beacon tradition, the group reopened the bookshop (temporarily) from Wednesday to Saturday between 1.30pm and 6pm in February 2017. The remit of the group is to make New Beacon Bookshop survive and explore a new economic model to sustain its survival and raise New Beacon’s profile for a new generation of the public including activists, students, educationalist, parents and children.

 

It is an interesting collection of titles on their nonfiction page. They lead with two books by Charlamagne tha God. The subtitle the published used on the book Barracoon, "The Last Slave," is just wrong.  There was no last slave.  If there was one they would have been enslaved in Texas.  I wonder why it was made different that the subtitle used in the States, The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”?

 

I Justed Added New Beacon Books to my Bookstore database. I'm gonna expand it beyond the United States.

 

 

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On 7/25/2019 at 12:21 PM, Troy said:

Sure most publishers large and small will sell directly to consumers, but this is a not a practice they generally promote.  They typically sell at full retail and charge for shipping.  This is so that they do not directly compete with wholesalers, distributors, and of course bookseller.s  Direct to consumer sales is not a part of a publisher's business model.

@Troy 

I'm referring to Big 5 Publishing House direct to consumer sales - and as I posted (see below) D2C sales are definitely included in their revenue model. In fact, three of the big 5 have programs where they will give away books to consumers who buy direct.

 

On 7/12/2019 at 1:18 PM, Mel Hopkins said:

Big Five Publishing House – Direct to Consumer SALES
Penguin Random House https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/faqs/#shopping (YES)
HarperCollins Publishers https://www.harpercollins.com/corporate/customer-service/ecommerce-faqs/ (YES)
Simon Schuster https://www.simonandschuster.com/c/help-shopping#checking-your-order-status (YES)
Hachette https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/  (NOPE)
Holtzbrinck/Macmillan UShttps://www.holtzbrinck.com/  https://us.macmillan.com/ (NOPE)

 

What you were referring to when you speak about discounts is included in their special sales and wholesale services... All 5 include those in their revenue model... In fact the two that don't sell direct to consumers make it quite easy to purchase through their special sales agents.   

I  purchase the majority of  my books from publishing houses or authors.    Consider buying direct from those who sell and you'll see what I mean.  

In fact, it may help you devise a better book buying plan between authors and AALBC.   I found a service that allows any website to sell books from all 5 publishing houses direct to their visitors and the website owner gets 50% of retail.   I haven't participated  in selling through the Everywhere Store but I do find the concept interesting.

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6 hours ago, Troy said:

50% off. Please share the info.

 

@Troy  50 % OF retail. 

 

 I think with your experience in coding AND books,  you can create a better model.  - Lawd knows,  I was thinking of something similar but this group created this model first.  I don’t want to link to it.  Look for  | Every where store dot  Zola books |

 

 

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23 hours ago, Troy said:

New Beacon BooksGood find @Maurice.  did you read the comments from their About Us Page:

 

After celebrating 50 years of achievement in 2016 the directors of New Beacon Books recognised that New Beacon bookshop, as it was currently organised, was not economically viable. The modern book industry with new ways of buying and reading books like Amazon and Kindle and the formation of super publishers and distributors was killing independent specialist bookshops like New Beacon. Very few of the bookshops who started when we did like Bogle L’Ouverture (Walter Rodney Bookshop) or Head Start had not survived to today. The directors took the decision to close New Beacon Bookshop in February 2017.   They calculated that it would take a while to clear stock and reorganise the bookshop. At the beginning of 2017 a group which included Janice Durham (director) Michael La Rose (director and John’s son) , Renaldo La Rose (John’s grandson) and his wife Vanessa La Rose decided they would attempt to keep New Beacon Bookshop going. The individuals came together as the New Beacon Development Group. Calling on volunteers and voluntary work, in the New Beacon tradition, the group reopened the bookshop (temporarily) from Wednesday to Saturday between 1.30pm and 6pm in February 2017. The remit of the group is to make New Beacon Bookshop survive and explore a new economic model to sustain its survival and raise New Beacon’s profile for a new generation of the public including activists, students, educationalist, parents and children.

 

 

It is an interesting collection of titles on their nonfiction page. They lead with two books by Charlamagne tha God. The subtitle the published used on the book Barracoon, "The Last Slave," is just wrong.  There was no last slave.  If there was one they would have been enslaved in Texas.  I wonder why it was made different that the subtitle used in the States, The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”?

 

 

 

I Justed Added New Beacon Books to my Bookstore database. I'm gonna expand it beyond the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

I have read some but not all. I'm really pleased to have found this shop. 

Was after Angela Davis' autobiography but it's not in stock at the moment. I'll settle for the Huey Newton book instead. 

By the way, is there a What are you Reading Now thread ?

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A "What you are reading thread" has not been created in sometime.  Please @Maurice, feel free to start a new one!

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