Amazon likened to Ryanair as publishers accuse it of bullying tactics

 

Amazon are in danger of becoming the “Ryanair of publishing” as UK firms locked in contract negotiations with the web giant accuse it of bullying tactics and warned the company was destroying the industry.

The online retailer is pushing for the right to print books itself if suppliers fail to provide enough stock and is also pressing publishers to match any pricing deals it offers to other distributors.

The Seattle-based firm is already in another fight in the United States with Hachette Book Group – it claims the online retailer is seeking to “dramatically change terms” over how to share profits on e-books. Trade magazine the Bookseller first reported that Amazon had introduced a number of new clauses in its recent contract proposals to independent UK publishers and there are parallels between the terms on offer to Hachette USA and British publishers.

Independent companies in the UK have been scathing in their reaction to Amazon’s tactics. One mid-sized firm accused the web giant of “bullying” and warned that the company was destroying the industry. Another said it had been approached by Amazon in the past with the changes it is trying to force through.

A senior manager at an independent publisher, which releases between 80 and 100 titles each year, told the BBC that if asked to agree to the new terms, their answer would be a “simple and monosyllabic no”.

The publisher also warned that Amazon, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, was reaching a “Ryanair moment” when customers and suppliers would become uncomfortable with the way that the company operates.

Amazon plans to use “print on demand” equipment to replenish its own stock should they run out and would also require publishers to hand over electronic versions of their titles. Industry experts said the method results in an inferior product and publishers fear unhappy customers will blame them rather than the online retailer for the poorer quality.

One representative of a mid-sized firm said Amazon had become “increasingly ruthless” in its negotiations, while another accused Amazon of “bullying”.

Separately, the European Union’s Directorate General for Competition is understood to have approached major UK publishers over an investigation into Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clauses, which ask publishers not to offer promotions to distributors without also offering them to Amazon.

This would include selling books at a discount on the publishers’ own websites and demands that publishers inform Amazon before offering e-book deals to other clients, and give Amazon the same terms.

A boss of a British publishing company said that they believed the MFN clause would cause Amazon to fall foul of competition rules and should be of concern to regulators. Publishers also told the BBC that Amazon generally prefers verbal agreements, and rarely documents its negotiations, but had done so in the latest round of talks, with one “mid-tier” firm saying this was the first time it had received correspondence outlining such terms.

The Bookseller’s editor, Philip Jones, told the BBC that if Amazon’s terms were agreed, it would be a “form of assisted suicide for the industry”. He added that the negotiations might be a tactic by Amazon, which has proposed similar terms in the past before abandoning their demands, and could be dropped again before a final deal is struck.

Mr Jones said Amazon has also played a positive role in the bookselling industry. He said: “The worst thing that could happen [to book publishers] would be for Amazon to go away. The second worst thing would be for it to become more dominant.”

No one at Amazon was available for comment, but in a previous statement on Hachette, a spokesperson said: "Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

Guru Careers: FX Trader / Risk Manager

Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue