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Small Press Publishers Are Kicking Amazon’s *$%!

By Harriet Staff


As in any whodunit mystery, readers have been left to wonder who is kicking Amazon’s virtual behind when it comes to bargains on small press samplings? the Guardian’s response: small press publishers are the ones giving better discounts on small press titles than Amazon. Yes, the word on the street is: buy your small press titles directly from small press publishers and save!

The evidence may be “anecdotal and fragmentary”, but it’s enough for the New York Times to suggest that with “Borders dead, Barnes & Noble struggling and independent booksellers greatly diminished”, Amazon have started to cut discounts. It’s certainly “difficult to comprehensively track the movement of prices”, as David Streitfeld suggests, but Amazon’s pricing of independent publishers might give us some clues to the future.

Just look at the contrast between the UK’s top 10 bestsellers – offered at an eyewatering 45% off when I crunched the numbers earlier this week – and the discount applied to, say, Acumen Publishing, a small-press publisher that focuses on academic books. You can pick up a handful of recent titles from Amazon at an average discount of just 6%. If you were to go directly to the publisher, they’d knock off 20%.

It’s the same story with Seren and Carcanet. The average discount Amazon offers on Carcanet titles is 7%, compared to an average of 14% directly from the publisher. Seren’s own discounts are, on average, almost ten times as large as those on Amazon.

When Amazon decides it needs to compete on price, the response is swift, as when JK Rowling’s crime novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, sailed down to a whopping 50% off when her authorship was revealed earlier this week. But where the pressure is less intense, as with small press publishers, the discounts are less, um, intense as well.

According to Frances Smith, an independent bookseller who campaigns about Amazon’s tax status, these pricing policies are designed “to squeeze as much money as possible out of all publishers – large and small”.

“There is a perception that it is the cheapest option for all books, which is isn’t,” she says, adding that “the likes of Amazon don’t care about smaller companies … Some think that there won’t even be any small competitors left in the future.” If that’s what the future holds, it’s a future I can’t bear thinking about.

You know what, we’re not even gonna punish those marauders. We like it. We don’t mind it one bit. Read more about not-so-secret societies of bargain booksellers at The Guardian.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 by Harriet Staff.