Has Amazon Moved Your Buy Button?

You may have read about the standoff between Amazon.com and the Macmillan publishing company. Macmillan had objected to Amazon’s pricing, particularly its loss-leader $9.99 e-book price for new books. In turn, Amazon.com temporarily halted the sale of all Macmillan books. This meant Amazon customers could only buy such books from third-party vendors; the regular Amazon “buy” button had been moved.

A few days later, Amazon began to sell Macmillan’s books again. But the Authors Guild wants to protect its members against such future actions. Here is the notice the Guild recently distributed; it plainly views Amazon as something less than a trusted partner:

The Authors Guild is pleased to announce the launch of WhoMovedMyBuyButton.com, which is now live in fully-functional beta form. Who Moved My Buy Button? allows authors to keep track of whether Amazon has removed the “buy buttons” from any of their books.

Simply register the ISBNs of any books you’d like monitored, and our web tool will check daily to make sure your buy buttons are safe and sound. If there’s a problem, we’ll e-mail you an alert.

Although we’ve launched WhoMovedMyBuyButton.com in response to Amazon’s wholesale removal of buy buttons from Macmillan titles, we believe Amazon should be monitored for years to come. Amazon’s developed quite a fondness for employing this draconian tactic (there’s a chronology at the website); it’s only grown bolder with its growing market clout.

Vigilance is called for: sounding off is our best collective defense. Register your ISBNs today — it’s free and open to all authors, Guild members and not. (Though we’d prefer you join.)

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  1. Matt B. says:

    This new website comes to you from the authors of the hit book “Who Moved My Cheese?”

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  2. Mike says:

    It boggles the mind that $10 is too low a price for something that has a marginal cost of production/distribution of effectively zero.

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  3. David G. says:

    Mike is right. Particularly when for many of these books, the difference between the paper price and the kindle price is just a dollar or two. Publishers are betting we’ll pay the extra margin for convenience. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. My bet is that we’ll see a gradual return to a sub $10 price within two years.

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  4. Trekkie says:

    I’d be shocked if prices don’t return to $10. Many people have a tough time digesting the idea that they’re buying something and not getting a physical object in return – something to put on their shelf. For $9.99 it seems like a one-digit figure (in dollars) and cheap enough to justify it; once it hits $15 I would say to myself “forget it” and either not buy it or shell out more for the print version.

    Long live Amazon.

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  5. Joe says:

    Book publishers have a problem that the music people didn’t have. Their primary customers are not a bunch of teenagers spending their parents money with no idea or understanding about how the CD’s or mp3′s are produced or distributed.

    Readers are well…..more widely read, and are very aware that readers are being asked to pay more for something (an e-book) that is less flexible (what if Glen Beck asked to see you e-book?) and costs way less to distribute.

    The marketplace will fix this. We’ll see how tough book publishers make it on themselves.

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  6. Diana says:

    Mike, much of the cost of book production is fixed. Yes, the marginal cost of an extra copy is zero, but authors, editors, copyeditors, marketers, illustrators, etc. still need to be paid.

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  7. Michael from comment #1 says:

    Was the button moved, or removed?

    Also, what does the guild think it’s going to do if the button is removed again? Hack into the website and put it back?

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  8. Akshay Anand says:

    Wasn’t there an report in the last week that the iTunes model of DRM-free publisher set prices of music downloads had led to a decline in the number of tracks sold at a higher price? One would hope that book publishers take a long, hard look at that report!

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