It’s a strange day for book retailing and publishing, as readers and authors alike react to the news that Amazon, apparently, can be frightened into compliance. In a story that carries just as many questions as answers, book retail giant and worldwide phenomenon Amazon has agreed to back off on its iron-fisted terms of service, at least in European markets, under threats from the EU of fines and backpayments.
It’s important to understand that book selling–like any other kind of retail–has different regulations and expectations in different international markets. This is why those who follow the industry keep hearing about “selling the foreign rights,” or come across news from Book Fairs in many different countries. Even self-published authors have found that different platforms have different pricing requirements in different markets.
But now, it seems as though Amazon has backed down in the face of threats from the EU. Interestingly, these same kinds of pressures have been applied in the US but no reverse action has been taken. It begs the question as to whether or not Amazon has any allies in the EU, and whether or not they know they’ve already stretched their welcome pretty thin by setting up shop in the tax haven of all tax havens, Luxembourg.
Essentially, the terms that Amazon is backing away from quickly involve publishers’ contracts and the retailer’s ability to set the price lower if someone else does. That sort of magic happens daily in the US, where Amazon routinely drops its price to be a better bargain than Apple Books, for example. Interestingly, even in the US, Amazon has long been accused of price fixing and laying waste to the competition, sparking concerns that eventually there will only be one choice left.