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Troy

An Example of Amazon Inflating the Price of a New Book

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Today I sold a few copies of Ibram X. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist. Ibram is a critically acclaimed author who won a National Book Award in 2016 (I recorded Ibram's acceptance speech).  Despite posting video and publishing a review of his latest book.  I have not sold many copies of his Kendi's books.

 

However, today I may have sold enough copies of How to Be an Antiracist for it to make my next bestsellers list.  This piqued my interest; why is there increased demand of Ibram's work on the site? I decided to check Amazon and discovered that Amazon is currently charging $44 -- minimum price for a used copy!

 

The book's price is $27 new -- Max.

 

Amazon has 3rd party booksellers competing to sell over priced, used copies of a book that is still in print and less than a year old!  How many unsophisticated book buyers will Amazon trick with this scheme? 

 

The reader is overcharged and neither the author or publisher earns a penny on these sales, but Amazon will, as usual, make money no matter what. 

 

Sure, people falsely believe Amazon sells books at the best prices, and maybe some customers feel compelled to buy overpriced books from Amazon because they are already paying 10 bucks a month for a Prime membership. But price gouging on books during a pandemic ... how low can you go?

 

I think people are beginning to see Amazon for what they truly are.  They don't care about the books, the readers, authors, or publishers.  All they care about is getting paid, and on that they have executed brilliantly.

 

Amazon Charing 40% over list for a new books
(left) Amazon screen shot* (right) AALBC screen shot
(taken 5/31/20)

 


*Yeah, I know I'm breaking my own rule of not allowing links to Amazon, but in this context I think it is appropriate.

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Guest Madinah

@Troy  

 

The Amz list price has since inflated.

 

The cost for Kindle purchase is remarkably lower than the aforementioned, as well, for obvious reasons. I’m curious as to how such a large gap in price points impacts author proceeds. Also, I have to respectfully pose this question: What responsibility do we, as authors, have to mitigate these circumstances? Collectively, everyone benefited here, if monetary gain was the goal, save the consumer and, presumably, the author (speculative). Or, is the juice (access to Amz customer base) worth the (financial) squeeze for writers, many of whom are traversing Maslow’s literary hierarchy?

 

This is an eye-opener!

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The best thing I've done in recent times was NOT to buy from Amazon anymore. Nothing. To hell with them.

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Hey @Maurice I support my local business and if what I'm looking for is not available locally I buy online, from anyone but Amazon.  

 

Madinah, yes I see that Amazon has lowered the price (see graphic below).  Amazon dynamically prices books to maximize revenue.  I guess Amazon's algorithm discovered they were losing customers to other booksellers and dropped to price. 

 

Please notice that Amazon is still aggressive pushing their “free” audiobook and Kindle format.  In fact the Kindle and Audiobooks buttons are the only ones that work. To buy the deeply discounted hardcover you have to click the small text below the button.  The entire design and layout of the page is encourage the visitor to buy the ebook or audiobook — both published by Amazon.  Because the ebook and audiobook are purely digital they both generate higher profits that a physical book.

 

The price today ($15.35) is lower than AALBC’s price from the distributor. I would lose money if I sold the book at that price.  The I don’t know what Amazon’s discount is for this book, but I know it is lower than AALBC’s.  Plus, Amazon can easily afford to sell books at a loss, to eliminate competition. The elimination of competition is core to Amazon’s mission.  Indeed this is the reason Wall Street funded Amazon for years while Amazon burned through money without making a profit, because they knew Amazon would ultimately become a monopoly.

 

Yesterday I asked on of my customers why they chose to buy How to Be an Antiracist from AALBC and they replied:

 

“This morning, I came across AALBC through a friend who posted on Instagram that she had purchased How to Be an Antiracist. She shared the name of AALBC to purchase the book from. I will continue to share AALBC & the list of bookstores on your site with others to ensure $ spent is going to Black Authors & Bookstore Owners who have written & curated books & resources.”

 

Again, people are starting to see Amazon for the manipulative, greedy, indie-business-destroyers they are.  People also recognize the added value that indie booksellers provide and are willing to pay full retail price for a book — even when Amazon tries to seduce them by selling a book below cost. 

 

 

amazon3.jpg

Amazon screen shot (taken 6/1/20)

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Guest Madinah

@Troy

 

As a self-publisher, I wasn’t forced to directly consider the semantics of this conundrum. My debut novel, “Emergency Alert: An Immersive Novel” is sold exclusively on Apple Books due to the audio/visual content presented throughout. Regardless, I was intrigued and wanted to follow the money, so to speak, particularly as a newbie to the literary world. 

 

As an academic, please excuse the non-scholastic reference, but this Vox article is spot on with your initial post. Where is the accountability for publishing houses that are also intermingled within this web? I feel as though we’ve been provided with a glance behind the ominous curtain..

 

https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/12/23/20991659/ebook-amazon-kindle-ereader-department-of-justice-publishing-lawsuit-apple-ipad

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On 6/1/2020 at 2:49 PM, Troy said:

The entire design and layout of the page is encourage the visitor to buy the ebook or audiobook — both published by Amazon.  Because the ebook and audiobook are purely digital they both generate higher profits that a physical book.

This is called choice architecture which is commonly utilized in marketing by almost all companies from your local grocery store to airlines to AMZ. I do agree that they are blatantly promoting their platform over the physical book. 

The question is why are consumers falling for it especially since many of us prefer physical books? I suspect the answer has to do with the accessibility. We want things now like a burger at Mickey D's and are not keen to wait for a book to be shipped.

 

On 6/1/2020 at 2:49 PM, Troy said:

The price today ($15.35) is lower than AALBC’s price from the distributor. I would lose money if I sold the book at that price.  The I don’t know what Amazon’s discount is for this book, but I know it is lower than AALBC’s.  Plus, Amazon can easily afford to sell books at a loss, to eliminate competition. The elimination of competition is core to Amazon’s mission.

Very interesting how quickly AMZ (or perhaps the author - since the author sets the price ) responded to lower the price. They (author+AMZ) may have tried to price gouge to take advantage of the current events surrounding George Floyd which would likely generate more demand for this genre of books. I wonder if this has been done this for other similar books?🧐

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2 hours ago, Kiran H. J. Dellimore said:

The question is why are consumers falling for it especially since many of us prefer physical books?

 

There are a wide variety of factors.  Much of it self-reinforcing.   For example, when an author says, "You can buy my book from Amazon." Everyone in 2020 knows this.  But I can't tell you how many authors I have interviewed on video that will tell my audience to buy their book from Amazon!?  AALBC is the one shooting, editing, and publishin their video -- not Amazon, but their condition makes this crazy scenario possible.

 

Still I sold book as an Amazon affiliate FAR longer than I should have.  I was afraid my customers would simply stop buy book from me. That is simply not true.  For example, on Tuesday I had more book sales, in one day, than I had with Amazon in my best month!  Now I know the reason is that there has been a national push for readers to support indie Black booksellers because of the pandemic and the police killing of Black people.  If I were an Amazon affiliate I would NOT have gotten these sales, because people want to promote Black booksellers.

 

2 hours ago, Kiran H. J. Dellimore said:

I wonder if this has been done this for other similar books?

 

Probably. but I have not had time to check.  I only took the time to check Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist, because I saw a surge in demand for the title.  I figured the demand was due to gouging by Amazon -- which turned out to be true, but the real demand came from a people looking for books on the subject but sourced from Black booksellers.

 

Now demand for the titles has made it impossible for any booksellers to immediately ship these book.  How to Be an Antiracist, will not be available from the nation's largest distributor, Ingram, until next week!

 

Check out want Amazon was up to yesterday:

 

They are still engaged in predatory pricing, but they have kept the price gouging at bay, at least until the scruntiny on these titles has abated.  Price gouging during a time like this is just a bad, bad look -- even the mighty Amazon is not immune to this.  I see Amazon has raised the price about a buck on this book and have removed a date when the book will be in inventory.  

 

 

amazon5.jpg

Screenshot taken June 4th 10:35 a.m.

 

My main distributor has more than 34,000 copies on back order!  This is a big number.  That is the earliest the book can be sent to a customer who order it from me.

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How to Be An Antiracist did ultimately become the top-selling book on AALBC for the May/June period.  I sold more copies of this book, in one month, that any other book, during the same period of time, in the almost 23 years I've been running the site.

 

Amazon has upped the ante and is currently selling the book at 45% off list. 

 

I would not have old nearly as many copies of Antiracist if readers did not make a conscious decision to support a Black-owned bookstore.  I have to commend these customers because they see through Amazon's faux-consciousness and decided support booksellers who care more about readers, authors, and publishers than how much money they can extract from them.

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I read a copy some months ago . Borrowed from my local library. Quite enjoyed the book but when I feel like another read, I'll go ahead and buy it.

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@Maurice don't feel the slightest bit guilty for borrowing a book from the library. Not every book is a keeper and many don't have space for very many.

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On 12 July 2020 at 11:48 PM, Troy said:

@Maurice don't feel the slightest bit guilty for borrowing a book from the library. Not every book is a keeper and many don't have space for very many.

I did feel a little guilty but as I had just purchased two books, I noticed this on sale in a local book shop and desperately wanted to read it, so off I trotted to the library. But I'm going to buy it at some stage.

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@Maurice whoever you patronize will be happy and of course sales a from a local bookshop support the author and publisher.

 

@O.W. I have not seen the CNN coverage, but the folks at Mahogany are my peeps 🙂

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