UK publishers' "concern" over Amazon e-book removals

UK publishers have expressed concern that Amazon’s use of “power” in removing the e-books of publishers which do not agree to a higher discount will spread to the UK and include print titles.

Amazon.com pulled the sale of over 4,000 e-books in the US after a fracas over terms with the American distributor Independent Publishers Group. The US IPG represents over 500 publishers and had 4,443 digital titles selling on Amazon, which have now been removed after the group would not agree to give Amazon a lower discount when its contract came up for renewal.

The IPG in the US also represents UK publishers such as Absolute Press, Aurum Press, AA Publishing, Anova and Alma, however Absolute and Anova said they sold few or no e-books in the US.

Alessandro Gallenzi, managing director of Alma Books, said: “I am shocked at this use of power and monopoly and I am afraid they will try to do the same here too. It does not affect us because we sell directly to Amazon, but it is what happened with UK publishers a couple of years ago and if their margins are tight, I am afraid they will do it again. Amazon’s system relies on efficient delivery and service of books, though, and this is a big spanner in the works.”

Physical titles of the IPG publishers are still available on Amazon US.

In an email sent to clients IPG president Mark Suchomel said: “I am disappointed to report that Amazon.com has failed to renew its agreement with IPG to sell Kindle titles. As of today, the Amazon.com website no longer offers for sale any electronic titles from any of IPG’s client publishers. All print editions are still available, as always.”

He added: “Remember that Amazon continues to be an important account that sells a lot of units. This is a business decision on Amazon’s part, and hopefully they will soon decide to reverse it and buy at our standard terms. IPG will be informing our other electronic book accounts of their favorable competitive position on our electronic titles.”

Suchomel advised publishers distributed by IPG to push customers onto rival sites such as those operated by Barnes & Noble and Kobo and to "support accounts that support your business". He added: "Seriously consider the implications of this action for the long run. If we don’t hold firm on your behalf, your margins will continue to erode."