Is Amazon Raising Book Prices On the Sly?

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Writers and publishers have complained that discounts on their books have evaporated in the past couple of years.

When a book stops selling well, we usually expect it to be moved from the shelf to a clearance table. Several writers and publishers say the opposite is happening on Amazon.

The New York Times says:

Bruce Joshua Miller, president of Miller Trade Book Marketing, a Chicago firm representing university and independent presses, said he recently surveyed 18 publishers. “Fourteen responded and said that Amazon had over the last few years either lowered discounts on scholarly books or, in the case of older or slow-selling titles, completely eliminated them,” he said.

For example, the price of “Jim Harrison: A Comprehensive Bibliography” has gone from $43.87 when it was published four years ago to just shy of $60 today, the paper notes.

An Amazon spokeswoman told the Times it is actually lowering prices. When asked to respond about several titles whose prices had jumped significantly, she declined to discuss specifics.

Today, Amazon sells nearly a quarter of all printed books, the Times says, and its dominance gives it greater power to control prices:

Even as Amazon became one of the largest retailers in the country, it never seemed interested in charging enough to make a profit. Now, with Borders dead, Barnes & Noble struggling and independent booksellers greatly diminished, for many consumers there is simply no other way to get many books than through Amazon.

Maybe that was the plan all along, disgruntled publishers and authors say: Sell tons of books at a loss, outlast the crumbling competition, sweep away the rubble, and finally establish a new, expensive book-selling world order.

“Amazon has a PR problem here: It has a long history of skirmishes with small merchants and individual sellers who believe the company abuses its dominant position in book and other online sales,” Business Insider says.

Stacy Johnson

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