Amazon flexes muscles with plan to impose fines on publishers

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The Independent Culture

Amazon is to begin fining publishers a minimum of £500 if they do not meet a strict set of delivery requirements, a leaked email has revealed.

The online retailer hopes the penalties, which will later increase beyond £500, will speed up its delivery system for those who buy books on the site. Publishers, however, said it was just another squeeze on an already struggling industry. Critics of the scheme said it would hit small publishing houses particularly hard.

From Monday, Amazon.co.uk is to charge publishers £500 for problems with orders, such as late deliveries of books, or consignments that fall short – and introduce a range of further charges, according to an email leaked to The Bookseller magazine. The £500 fee is described as an "initial" fine, with the online retailer stating in the email that the coming months would see the charge extended.

The news was met with mixed responses from the industry. One source said: "Amazon has the most incredible ability to wind people up by sloppy communication.

"I suspect [the message] would scare the bejesus out of small publishers. From a retail perspective, supermarkets do it all the time, but less so within the book trade."

Liz Thomson, editor of the online forum BookBrunch, said while other retailers had already put such fines in place, Amazon's decision to follow suit may not be seen as honourable. "It appears to be a way for Amazon to try and get more money out of publishers at a time when publishers don't have the margin to give," she said.

An Amazon.co.uk statement said: "We are constantly looking at our business to find ways in which we can lower prices, increase selection and improve the shopping experience for the benefit of all our customers."

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