Amazon Saturday

Today is Amazon.com’s bounty-hunting day. If you’d like to read more about what other folks think of this adorable trick, here’s what American Booksellers Association has to say.

Here’s the link to the petition, again, for those who are interested.

There’s also a cogent discussion of Amazon’s Thrilling! New! Project! KDP Select.

As it happened, Steve and I had some shopping to do on Waterville Main Street today, so off we took ourselves, to the post office, which was a Zoo; to Joka’s; to Juliet’s Bakery — which were, thankfully, not a Zoo; to The Framemaker’s where Bill admired the Dragon Ship art, and suggested The Perfect Frame.

Now, I want to pause here and say that, indeed, it was the perfect frame. Right up to the point where Bill came back from running the numbers, looking a little shaken, and said, “This is the most expensive frame we have in the store. I’m not kidding.”

So, we three put our heads together again, found a very nice, and appropriate! frame, and settled on a price for mat, glass, frame, and labor that came in a couple of pennies less than one-third of what it would have cost for the frame alone of the other stuff.

That pleasant chore accomplished, we walked down to Barrels to renew our annual membership and chat with the crew. After that, it was Hannaford, and some moderate food shopping, then home to a quiche-and-green-salad lunch, and so to the desks.

…now back after a cookie break. Juliet? Makes a darn good gingerbread cookie.

I wanted to touch on something that first came up during the autographed books discussion we had a couple weeks ago. There seems to be a belief among people who don’t work in bookstores, or as publishers, or as writers, that Amazon’s prices are the norm and that indie bookstores mark their books up to an outrageous level, and that’s um…just not now it works.

How it works is like this: Rolanni Publications publishes Living High on SciFi by S. Lee. Based the cost of art, typesetting, copy editing, what the market will bear, &c, &c the publisher sets the price and prints it on the cover. This is called the “cover price” or “retail price.”

Now, in order to get LHSF into bookstores, the publisher offers it at a “bookstore discount.” This discount has been, for as long as I’ve been aware of these things, 40% of cover. This means that, if the cover price for LHSF is $30, the bookstore will pay $18. The
bookstore will then sell the book to you for cover price, thus earning $12 per book sold.

For the purposes of this discussion, we’re not going to get into returns and all the rest of bookselling’s arcane and endearing little traditions. We’re just going to do arithmetic.

So, are we clear on the above? — $30 cover price, publisher places with bookstores at 40% discount, bookstore takes the difference between 40% discount and cover price as their income (i.e., the cash that’s used to keep the lights on, the heat up, the employees and the owner paid).

Hokay. So, that’s how it works, normally.

Enter Amazon.

Amazon doesn’t want to take a 40% discount. They need to earn more money than that, so they can pay lawyers to help them avoid paying sales tax to the states in which they do business. Amazon wants a 50, 60, and I heard from at least one small press, a 65% discount off of cover. And they’re huge. If you’re a publisher, you’ve got to move books, so you hope to ghu that you can earn enough on volume to make this work. If your publishing enterprise is big enough, of course. A 60% off cover bookseller discount would be unsupportable at Rolanni Publications. Just sayin’.

Now. Amazon, having scrod the publisher on the discount, then turns around and sells the book to you at a price significantly less than cover price. This is, a DISCOUNT. It is not the natural price of the book; the natural price of the book is the one printed on the cover.

So, yes. You will pay more at your local bookstore for LHSF — unless the store is having a sale — because you will be paying cover price. But that is not because Amazon’s price is the Real Price and your local bookstore is trying to rip you off. It’s because Amazon is willing to go to quite extraordinary lengths to be the last player left standing at the end of the game.

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