One of my fellow authors is scratching her head because she’s discovered her books are being sold on foreign websites. Her discovery raises a couple of questions. How did her novels wander so far from the home? Does one get bragging rights for making the bestseller list in Transylvania?
What isn’t in doubt is she gets no proceeds from the sales. Her books surf the internet making profit for someone else. But who? And how does it happen?
One explanation comes from an article sent to me by a blog reader. (“Publishing’s Unfair Gray Market,” by Douglas Preston, New York Times, Oct. 12, 2017, Page A 23.). (Click) According to the writer, Amazon sits at the heart of the problem. The company has “decided to allow third-party sellers to be featured atop the primary purchase button for new books, a spot previously reserved for Amazon’s own inventory, which comes directly from the publishers.” In other words, Amazon steps aside as the prime retailer and gives the space to third-party sellers.
As writer Douglas Preston points out, third-party wholesalers have several ways to get their hands on books, bypassing publishers and writers. One way is to purchase review copies.– books sent to critics for comment. Reselling a review copy isn’t illegal, but it’s unethical if the work isn’t identified as used. Either way, these third-party sellers leave publishers and authors out in the cold. Amazon’s change in policy, says Preston, is the “slippery slope” that could damage the industry.
The buyer can be hurt, too, because he or she is no longer assured a book purchased from a third-party seller is new or simply one in good condition. Prices for the books vary, as well, depending upon what the seller thinks the market will bear.
I have no idea why Amazon has changed its policy. Preston mumbles something about an algorithm but fails to clarify. One thing is certain. The change benefits Amazon and leaves authors, publishers and book buyers in a profit squeeze. No surprise there. Amazon’s done it before. (Click)
(First published 11/1/17)