Earlier today Germany’s Börsenverein announced that they had filed an antitrust complaint against Amazon, alleging that the retailer was the next best thing to a monopoly and was using its market dominant position to break German law.
It’s still far too early for an offical response from the German govt, but late on Tuesday Amazon responded to the news. According to Amazon’s statement, it isn’t delaying the shipment of Bonnier titles; Amazon is just running out because it’s not keeping very many copies in stock. (This is pretty much what Amazon said in response to similar claims from Hachette. )
But Amazon does admit to wanting better terms for ebooks. From their statement, it sounds like Amazon is pursuing in Germany the same price parity terms they are rumored to be demanding in the UK.
Arguing that ebooks have lower costs than print books, Amazon want to buy ebooks on terms similar to that of paper books. While that is true to a small degree, what Amazon neglects to mention is that the better ebook terms won’t be passed along to customers. Thanks to Germany’s fixed price book laws that is simply not possible.
What Amazon is hoping you won’t notice is that they’re trying to turn the clock back to the wholesale period, and in doing so secure a larger share of ebook revenues for their own pockets. Admittedly, that’s not what Amazon is specifically saying, but it comes to the same thing.
Read the statement and tell me I am wrong:
We are aware of the complaint by the Boersenverein that alleges that we are delaying shipments to customers – this allegation is not true. We are currently buying less print inventory than we ordinarily do on some titles from the publisher Bonnier. We are shipping orders immediately if we have inventory on hand. For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order at which time we order the inventory from Bonnier — availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Bonnier to fill the orders we place. Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to customers promptly.
We would like to add some context: It’s widely understood that e-books should cost customers less than the corresponding print edition – in digital there is no printing, freight, warehousing, or returns. We believe this should also be reflected in the terms under which booksellers buy their books from publishers, and this is the case in our terms with most publishers around the world, including in Germany. For the vast majority of the books we sell from Bonnier (a division of the 3 billion Euro international media conglomerate, Bonnier Media Group AB), they are asking us to pay them significantly more when we sell a digital edition than when we sell a print edition of the same title.
image by bravenewtraveler