Last week, word got out that Amazon is requiring small press publishers to use their newly acquired BookSurge print facilities or lose their “buy” button on Amazon’s website. I’ve never liked strong-arm tactics or unethical business behavior, and I don’t patronize businesses that exhibit these things. I take my business elsewhere. Example, I haven’t bought a gallon of Exxon gas since the Valdez scandal. Does this really impact Exxon’s business? No, but if everyone stuck to it like I have for the past 19 years then it would impact them.
Business and Their Moral, Ethical Obligations
Business are about making money, but their success ensures financial well-being of others. It’s a symbiotic relationship. A business can be morally and ethically responsible and still be financially successful (Ask me about Ukrops). Amazon’s behavior in this matter is anything but moral or ethical. I am particularly offended from a professional standpoint by PR people who write letters such as the one Amazon has posted on their website. Letters that distort the facts or try to imply the company is working for the betterment of others.
“…we can provide a better, more timely customer experience if the POD titles are printed inside our own fulfillment centers. In addition, printing these titles in our own fulfillment centers saves transportation costs and transportation fuel.”
Next Verse, Same As The First…
“No, there is no request for exclusivity. Any publisher can use Amazon’s POD service just for those units that ship from Amazon….”
True. Exclusive means one can not divide or share something with others. However, Amazon knows full well that small press will be forced to do business with BookSurge. The alternative is to possibly go out of business and/or be unable to expand. Either Amazon doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that this decision has far reaching ramifications beyond their bottom-line. This move can have an impact on the overall economy of small business. If anyone connected to small press loses work or money because of the loss of a buy button on Amazon, then other businesses suffer. Writers support websites hosts, review sites, printers (bookmarks), promo vendors, graphic designers, etc. In turn those vendors use their income for either mandatory goods at the local Walmart or grocer or they buy luxury items such as books, DVDs, etc bought from, oh my, Amazon. Balance that with the possibility of BookSurge failing. Either way Amazon’s not using their head. There is a ripple effect. The scope of it may or may not be huge, but Amazon’s decision does have an impact. It might be a good financial decision for Amazon but from a business ethics and moral business decision it’s a bad one.
Tell The Whole Truth
“…many years ago we started offering customer reviews on our website. This was a pioneering thing to do at the time.”
True, but they fail to mention it backfired on them, and they had to revamp their system when it was discovered some authors were posting negative reviews of their competitors’ books using anonymous names. They’ve since corrected that issue, but this post is about misleading people.
I’d have a lot more respect for Amazon if they’d just come out and say …
Dear Small Press Vendor,
Amazon is in the business to make money. For this reason we bought BookSurge. Since we invested money in this printer, we need to ensure we see a return on our investment (ROI). Naturally, this means we need people to use BookSurge.
Since we believe marrying BookSurge and our Buy buttons to be advantageous for us, we are requiring you to use our printer if you wish to keep your Buy book listed on our website. We understand you will not be happy with this decision; however, our bottom-line is our first concern. We believe that you will come to see this as advantageous for you as well since it will ensure your books are available for sale on the Amazon website via a buy button.
Ensuring our ROI is vital to our financial standing. As long as we do nothing to jeopardize our customer base, we believe that the loss of a few small vendors will not significantly impact our profits or our customer service to make us reverse our policy decision.
We hope you will use our Print On Demand service, but understand if you choose to take your business elsewhere. We wish you the best if that is your decision.
The Amazon.com Team of Small Press Slayers
This type of letter is far from political correct, but it’s honest and open. And in my mind this fictional letter is exactly how they feel. IMHO, they don’t care whether a small press vendor succeeds or fail because, like many large businesses, Amazon is lacking in moral and ethical standards. A truly ethical company (and they are out there – I shop at one every week) wouldn’t use strong-arm tactics, they’d find ways to make it advantageous for small press to use BookSurge. Whether it’s incentives or faster turnaround time or breaks for the vendor’s customers. If they truly cared about partnerships, they would work to find ways to make their business ecosystem was a circular one to ensure they prosper for years to come. You gather more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. It’s unfortunate Amazon doesn’t have enough smarts or business ethics to realize this.