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Japanese publishers blast new Amazon book sale rules


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Ha ha! The Japanese companies have got the poops because they have to show their mark up, thus making them have to be honest retailers instead of ripping people off. I'd like to see the same done on Rakuten. I bought a set of guitar pick ups last week for ¥16,000 on Rakuten last week. However, the exact same pick ups ranged up to ¥45,000 for the set from different retailers. I bought an acoustic guitar on Rakuten a few months ago for ¥23,000 (on special -30%). Some retailers have the same guitar for ¥80,000. Shop smart people! Always compare prices on the internet.

18 ( +23 / -4 )

On Youtube, check out Stephen Colbert's rant about this very topic. It's Colbert Report at its best. The Stephen Colbert "suggests" is the best.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I found this article hard to understand, maybe because I'm not familiar with the publishing industry. I'm not quite sure what the issue is. I would appreciate it if someone could put it in simple terms for me. "Some smaller publishers are facing demands to accept a surge in commission fees..." Does this mean Amazon is charging more to put stuff on their site? Sorry, please enlighten me. The more I re-read the article, the more I'm not sure....

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Then go to another Book site.... if enough authors do so Amazon will be sorry.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Looks like it means those publishers who agree to pay Amazon a higher commission for each book will have their books posted higher in search order.

Just as a guess and for example, because I don't have any numbers, supposing 4-point scale with 1 pct at each point, if publisher A accepts paying a 4 pct commission to Amazon and publisher B only 1 pct, publisher A's books will be listed at top of any searches by Amazon customers and given preference in banner ads, and publisher B's books will be listed at bottom, maybe never in banner ads, and customers may never see publisher B's book (except for weird customers who scroll all the way to bottom of multi-page searches).

Amazon not running a charity here so hard to see the publishers' complaints as valid, except as expression of their right to free speech.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Amazon is really not a monopoly. Don't like it, sell somewhere else. Does it make you lose your 50% mark-up? Tough luck...

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I really don't understand how they are in any position to complain about this. Amazon is not required to sell their books in the first place, so if Amazon's practices are going to make some of these companies bankrupt, well then maybe some of these companies should find other means for publishing and selling their books. If you don't like the service, don't use it. Simple as that.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Amazon should know better, or Anti-Trust law will kick in and rip Amazon into pieces.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Why is Amazon on its high horse in the first place. Where is their competition?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Amazon not running a charity here so hard to see the publishers' complaints as valid, except as expression of their right to free speech.

I agree.

Why is Amazon on its high horse in the first place. Where is their competition?

Wherever anyone wants to build it. There are plenty of places to buy ebooks on the net.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Amazon’s Japanese unit described the matter as a private one between the company and publishers

Looks as if Amazon took a lesson from the Chinese on diplomacy 101.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Why is Amazon on its high horse in the first place. Where is their competition?

Probably the go-to place for books on the net before most other stores, sell high volume so they can set the prices low, and they have a powerful network that allows them to offer free ship ping. Rakuten books also has free ship ping but I find their site really annoying to browse..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All the bad press given to Amazon regarding its labor and business practices, the company has been great for consumers in Japan, especially if you regularly buy English-language books.

Before Amazon came onto the scene here, Japan was a nightmare for book consumers. A company called Yaohan had a complete monopoly on the book distribution business in Japan -- and because of their stranglehold on the market, English language books were more than double what they would cost anywhere else on the planet. If a book/magazine didn't go through "the Darth Vader of book distributors", it did not get on the shelves. It was so bad that if a bookshop tried to sell even a small booklet without Yaohan's approval, the company would threaten to stop selling its books to that bookshop.

Yaohan went bankrupt in 2008, and I am sure that was attributable in no small part to Amazon's entry into Japan's market. Thank you Amazon, at least for that (but now please clean up your labor practices).

16 ( +17 / -2 )


Yeah, but... slavery made cotton pretty cheap in the 19th century. Nice for the fashionista... not so good for the slaves.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Correction: The now defunct monopolistic book distributor was "Yohan" (not "Yaohan," which is a Japanese retailer).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Small publishers have to make more margin, just like a small. independent store has to make more.

If chain A has 500 outlets and each outlet only makes 200,000 yen/month, that's 100,000,000 yen/month profit. How much does the independent store B make? 200,000 yen per month.

Why does the small publisher have to pay more to Amazon than the large publisher?

Small publishers contribute to society by publishing books that may not be best sellers, but every bit as important. Should small filkmakers have to pay theaters more of a percentage than the large studios do?

Amazon is unique in that it has all but killed the independent book sellers, and has done it by losing money every year. Amazon has never earned a profit and I don't think that business model contributes much to society. So it is not truly a free market choice to use or not use Amazon.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Why is Amazon on its high horse in the first place. Where is their competition?

By not being profitable at all. Amazon makes a lot of revenue, but nearly always ends by losing money - keeping investors around with the promise of long-term profits. Most companies don't have such paitent shareholders, Amazon are particularly difficult to compete with. The long-term goal of this is well known, but I suspect crushing all competition now is a core objective.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yeah, I don't understand how Amazon loses money. Amazon (and a lot of tech companies) is using various loopholes in Europe to avoid paying tax. These loopholes are being closed. Hence the need for Amazon to find more revenue. I do like the lower prices that have ensued, but it comes at a cost of fewer well written books.

2 ( +3 / -2 )

Solution? Innovate! That's what Amazon did, and that changed the retailing landscape. If the smaller publishers got together, perhaps they could create an alternative.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

and why should the publishing industry be void of competition. should be treated as any other industry, if you dont like Amazons terms sell someplace else. if your selling a quality item then people will buy it, excessive profit margins are a thing of the past, get with the times, or get out!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Given what lousy royalties traditional publishers pay to authors and the way in which most tend to churn through new authors, whom they can pay next-to-nothing, instead of developing promising talent, it's hard to have much sympathy for the publishers. Amazon may be using some rough tactics, but the publishing dinosaurs are their own undoing. Did they develop online retailing presences or e-book readers? No. Even when the technology was taking off, all the publishers did was try to limit it and engage in price-fixing. Amazon at least pays authors a decent royalty, doesn't cut them off after a decently received book or two, and gives consumers more choice. Traditional publishers pretending they are on the side of authors or readers is laughable.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Re Amazon losing money, I thought a prime objective of business is to operate at a loss, thus avoiding the tax man. But I'm not businessman :).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )


To answer your question, Amazon is basically telling publishers that if they promise to git Amazon a bigger piece of the profit for selling their books on Amazon, they'll get preferred status treatment online. The preferred status treatment happens in the form of ranking schemes that put publishers who are willing to give more of their money to Amazon at the top of website searches, and publishers who don't give into this blatant extortion at the bottom of search results, of at all.

This will result in several negative outcomes for publishers. The biggest one is that it will force them to cut into their profit margins to the point that they can no longer afford to publish. And they'll go out of business. This isn't good for anyone, least of all readers.

Another is that it will immediately force smaller publishers out of business as a matter of course because they simply don't have the cash reserves to compete with larger publishers who can afford to absorb cuts in their bottom-line profits. So they'll just die on the vine. This too is bad for the consumer because it results in a horrible dilution of available content. Instead of a host of different writers, topics, and styles, the reader gets... well, "50 Shades of Grey." If that doesn’t make one shudder, I don’t know what will.

The thing about Amazon is that they've done this in other marketplace areas as well, with everything from tools to toys to apparel.

In ancient Japan, when ranking members of society based on their "worthiness," I suppose, farmers and warriors were held in the highest esteem, while merchants (like Amazon) sat at the bottom of the pile, scorned and reviled. Why? Because the prevailing wisdom was that merchants neither made anything nor contributed to the building of society. Their existence was purely to profit off the work and sweat of others. Amazon seems bent on proving this rather stark perspective to be true with its unmitigated greed. It also seems bent on landing itself in front of an anti-monopoly inquiry as well.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I thought a prime objective of business is to operate at a loss, thus avoiding the tax man. But I'm not businessman :).

if it were that easy every company would be operating at a loss all the time. It tends not to make the shareholders happy when you consistently appear to be losing them money though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i get the feeling that most posters are clueless about anti-monopoly laws and why it's wrong and illegal. just because you get cheaper books doesn't make it less offensive to use strong-arm tactics forcing plubishers to pay higher commission fees.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Amazon then pushes hardest to promote books from publishers who agreed to the most favorable contract terms, which directly impacts how a book sells, they said, confirming a report by the Asahi Shimbun last week.

Unlike many posters, I actually think this is an issue. Amazon is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, sales platforms. Locking small publishers out of the market or directly affecting their sales, is a big market issue. Small publishers do bring variety to the market. Just because consumers are getting lower prices does not mean at Amazon can act this way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Okay, 5 points.

Amazon is not a monopoly. There are literally thousands of online bookstores, and they are not OBLIGED to list or sell everyone's products.

There is a cost associated with storing and managing the data associated with each seller's products. I know this may be difficult for "the internet is free!" people to grasp, but maintaining any large database is expensive.

Simply put Amazon is proposing that publishers that pay them a larger commission get put in the display window, and publishers where Amazon makes lower commission are put in the back of the store. Nobody would complain if this was a real bookstore, but somehow because it is on the internet people lose all common sense.

Publishers already make obscene profits. An ebook (zero printing costs, just a small fee to maintain the book's listing) costs nearly the same as a softcover these days. That's ridiculous.

These are not "strong-arm" tactics. Amazon is simply saying, "If you want your book shown in the display case at the front of the store then you're going to have to pay for advertising. If you just want us to list your book, then you just need to pay for the listing". There's no such thing as a free lunch and you get what you pay for.

Honestly people there is no scandal here, just a basic failure to understand that advertising is something you PAY for.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

As far as Japanese books are concerned, Amazon does not sell them at discount, contributing nothing to the consumers.

Amazon is not a monopoly, but it is large enough to be accused of abuse of superior position, as defined in Japanese fair trade laws.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

One should be reminded of the fact that Japanese publishers enjoy, and are protected by, the "resale price maintenance system," by means of which they fix and regulate the priceces of new books. Only secondhand books can be sold without regard for the prices fixed by the publisher. Though this system applies to printed books only, the publishers have applied the practice to e-books, too. This issue is not discussed publicly in the media, because media companies are publishers after all.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Do what the French did, make it a law that you can't sell below 5% of the selling price. That way you don't create unfair business practices that are criminal. It's a concept I suppose

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Publishing is my business as much as writing with more than ten books published to date. Are the Germans and the French as well as some big American publishers wrong in grappling with Amazon with regard to commission setting? Are they all wrong? I am truly amazed at the finger pointing to Japanese publishers when the whole publishing industry globally is unhappy with the Amazon new rules! Hey guys! Read the stories out there before laying the blame on someone else!

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Do what the French did, make it a law that you can't sell below 5% of the selling price. That way you don't create unfair business practices that are criminal. It's a concept I suppose

This type of practice is already common in Japan - look at the price of domestic CDs, DVDs, car shaken and all sorts of activities. Japanese industries have found ways to keep their products more expensive for decades, which only keeps the population poor. Your solution? More of the same!

Actually, books in Japan are not that expensive, but the publishing industry appears to be unwilling to e-publish at competitive prices and clearly dislikes innovation.

5 ( +6 / -1 )


All three examples you mentioned has a price range based on retailer, but won't go below below the point where they can't make a profit. It also has to do a lot with supply and demand.

E-publish has an artificial inflated price since they want to maintain the conventional paper based publishing which ensures as tonttu explains the resale price maintenance law (it maintained by law and not just a system) or brick and mortar book stores are going the same way as the record stores. It's the only way the publishers are able to maintain control of pricing policy.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

After working more than 30 years in the Japanese publishing industry, believe me, I am so pleased that the Japanese publishing bandits are finally being brought to task. This is one of the few countries where retail price maintenance was the norm -- in other words, retailers couldn't discount books. Until Amazon entered the market, Japanese customers had absolutely no choice on price, so, of course, the previously pampered publishers are crying foul. Just like NTT, until competition was introduced, Japanese publishers have too long lived high on the hog by overcharging everybody for bacon -- and to a certain extent, still do; just go to 10 Japanese book stores and see how uniform the prices remain. Well done Amazon -- lang may yer lum reek!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

With great power comes great responsibility -- a famous quote popularized in recent years by the Spider-Man comic

This is the problem Amazon now faces with their ham-handed handling of companies selling their books and home videos through Amazon. Yes, there are other sources to buy books and home videos, but Amazon's enormous public visibility makes them by far the best-known and most popular place for such purchases online. Unfortunately for Amazon, what they're doing--first with Hachette publishing, then with Disney home videos, and now Japanese publishers--could attract antitrust regulators, because this is effectively abuse of economic power that is strictly prohibited under the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts in the USA and antitrust laws in the European Union.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )


Thank you for clarifying this. That was a great explanation, and nicely worded too. As someone who likes to read, Amazon's attempt as you have summarized it is quite disappointing. Smaller publishers and the readers stand to lose. That's just sad.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Don't like Amazon's terms? Take your business elsewhere. It's a FREE MARKET.

But no! You can already hear the voices calling for laws to stop evil companies from harming what amounts to social interests. You're judging Capitalism by socialist standards.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

"Actually, books in Japan are not that expensive, but the publishing industry appears to be unwilling to e-publish at competitive prices and clearly dislikes innovation."

Bingo! The very reason why the publishers are tied to all the other media. They keep paper going because it is far more profitable for them. If they used primarily e-publishing then their gross profits would disappear.

In the US and Europe the brick and mortar book stores are fading into history as people see books as much more environmental, convenient, and sensible. Here in Japan they have been convinced by the media that paper printing is the only viable way to maintain publishers. It's not, just lazy and profit driven like most things here.

Look at all the newspapers, magazines, manga, and adverts that are stacked beside homes each collection day. It makes the head spin people so famous for their eco consciousness still cling to paper like they do.

Look at the newspapers all over the platforms, in the train cars, and stations. I feel much better with my tablet and more conscious using it. There is no more need to hack trees down.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It's called capitalism....

0 ( +4 / -4 )

It's not up to Amazon to determine how much a product is worth then tell the creator the amount they're going to earn, just so they can earn more profits themselves. That's a monopoly and nothing to do with capitalism. The publishing houses can create their own alternative; readers and fans would support the authors

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Amazon is evil thru and thru. They have a near monopoly now for selling books, CD's and DVD's, and each time they gain marketshare they press the copyright holders for better terms, and lower their prices a notch to hold off competitors. They care not all all for books, music of film, just trying to grab marketshare, drain every yen out of it, and if some vendors go bust they could care less. Do buy your books and CD's anywhere but from Amazon. Doing business with Amazon is dancing with the devil.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Doing business with Amazon is dancing with the devil.

I like doing business with the Devil, he has a huge collection of souls, he sells those souls at a fair price, he ships those souls at a fair price, and he ships those souls out FAST! The Devil can only stay on top as long as he meets the customer's needs... and that tells you the rest of the whiners are standing outside the kitchen watching the bread bake.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Even in the USA the publishers have grown tired of accepting Amazon's strong armed tactics...lets see how things turn out in Tokyo.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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