OUR DISTRIBUTOR Independent Publishers Group (IPG) has informed us that Kindle versions of our books will no longer be available at Amazon.com due to changes in terms by Amazon that would reduce already narrow margins for all IPG publishers. A little over a year ago Amazon attempted to bully major publishers into accepting untenably low prices on Kindle e-books and failed when the “big six” publishing houses held firm—now Amazon has turned its attention to squeezing independent publishers. That may be cold-blooded capitalism, but now that Amazon has become a publisher itself, it is perfectly willing to take every advantage of also being in the catbird seat as a major bookseller to put a pecuniary gun to the head of publishing competitors. Heretofore book publishers of different stripes have always gotten along. I can firmly state that there is no zero-sum thinking among independent publishers. The gains of one publisher do not diminish those of another. If Amazon thinks it knows best how to price books, it can now put its theories into practice with its own publishing venture. However, Amazon also believes that it should be allowed to lower prices on other publishers’ offerings. Of course this unilateral decision making by Amazon really serves Amazon’s interest while putting independent publishers at risk. Amazon presents itself as the new paradigm in publishing, but at heart it reveals a grocery clerk’s mindset that feels resentment at the fruit cart that sets up for business across the street. Naturally, one should not expect moral fiber from a giant corporation whose interest in books is the same as its interest in lug-wrenches: units to be sold at profit. (It should always be kept in mind that Amazon has no affinity for the written word.) Amazon is used to dictating terms to vendors and it does not look any more kindly upon publishers or publishers’ bottom lines. It may seem a stretch of the imagination even to envision Amazon as the sole publisher in the country, but it is not a stretch to see Amazon as the sole dominant bookseller—this is Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos’ wet dream. What Amazon is doing as a publisher is producing a store brand, a knockoff of a product that is sold alongside the original, but at a cheaper price. More choices are good for consumers, but how would buyers react if they go into a Wal-Mart and all they see are store brands on the shelves? Far fetched, perhaps, but Amazon has shown by its actions that it has little concern for publishers or readers.
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