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Many visitors to this Web site have asked me why I do not sell my books on Amazon any more. For twenty years, from 1981 through 2001, my books were sold in book stores nationwide and, when they came into being, by Amazon.

There are a number of reasons. Many are explained in my book How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Own How-To Book. Here are some of those and others.

Middlemen like Amazon take too big of a cut

Mainly, middlemen like Amazon, distributors like Publishers Group West and Ingram, and publishers like Simon & Schuster, take too big of a cut. I am my own publisher, but at the end of my time in the book stores, my share of my own book sales was getting down closer to an author’s royalty than a publisher’s profit, yet I was doing all the publishing work and taking all the publishing risk. Pure authors just write. They do no other work and take no risk.

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Amazon sometimes offered discounts

A woman called me once and asked about the details on one of my books. She then announced she was going to buy it and I asked for her name and address. She laughed and said, “Oh, I’m not going to buy it from you. I’ll get it from Amazon. They have a 20% discount.” So for a period, I had to give a 25% discount on my own sales direct to customers to avoid losing them to Amazon. I do not believe Amazon gives such discounts any more. Doesn’t matter to me anyway. I refuse to sell them my books.

Not-very-bright consumers will think that Amazon is a good guy for giving better prices and I am a bad guy for not giving discounts. Actually, that is not the way it works. Amazon is less of a profit-making company than a stock. By playing good guy to consumers, Amazon drives up its stock price, makes its CEO Jeff Bezos richer than God, and gets him made Time magazine Man of the Year (1999).

I believe that Amazon has actually been making a small profit in a few recent years. I saw a TV panel discussion that included Bezos and Sony’s Howard Stringer once. When Bezos claimed they made a profit that year for the first time, Stringer laughed, pulled a ten dollar bill out of his pocket, and said, “Here, I just doubled your profits for you.” But Amazon lost huge amounts for all the years before that so their cumulative net is still a big loss.

Dollar bills for 90¢

Someone once said of them that they sell dollar bills for 90¢. That’ll make you popular with consumers and with not-very-bright stock-market investors who focus entirely on your sales, and ignore your profits or lack thereof. When you let Amazon sell a product of yours, the dollar bills they are selling for 90¢ to drive up their stock price are your dollar bills.

I do not have a stock price. I do have a mortgage. I need to make a profit on each book sale. Unlike Jeff Bezos, I cannot just suck up to the public by wasting my shareholders’ money while making the value of my stock higher. And I would not if I could. That behavior is immoral.

Review

Amazon once received a very favorable review of my book Coaching Youth Football. In fact, that book is so successful that two other books that used to have different titles changed their titles to Coaching Youth Football. You cannot copyright a title and although you can trademark a title, you cannot trademark one that uses generic words like Coaching Youth Football.

The fact that the other publishers copied my title to profit from my writing is not Amazon’s fault. But this is. I asked Amazon to stop selling my books, which they sort of did. But they put the very favorable review of my book on the page where they were selling one of the other Coaching Youth Football books. How do I know the review was about my book? Because the reviewer used my name as the author in the review!

I called to complain. I got a couple of ditzes whose job was to placate consumers. In other words, they had the authority to send a consumer a second book if they said they had not received their order or something like that. They had neither the authority nor the brainpower to deal with my complaint and they refused to connect me to anyone who did have such authority or brainpower. As far as I can tell, Amazon has a lot of not-very-bright phone people to suck up to consumer/stock buyers, but none to deal with unhappy publishers. I guess because publishers are not numerous enough to elevate their stock price and because they think their back-alley treatment of us will never become known to the public. Guess again, Jeff.

Finally they “fixed” the problem. But how they “fixed” it tells you volumes about the IQ and integrity of the people who work for Amazon. They left the review of my book on the other book’s Web page, but they removed my name from the review!!

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Don’t like your bad review, replace it with phony good reviews

A man who worked for another publisher once told me on the phone that his boss told him to get Amazon to remove a bad review of one of that company’s books that was posted on the page selling that book at the Amazon Web site.

Exuding self-righteousness, an Amazon employee told him that they did not do such things. Freedom of speech and all that. Then, exuding sleaziness, they helpfully added that there was only room for a certain number of reviews on each page and that the most recent ones were at the top. They then suggested that the complaining publisher post a bunch of fake good reviews of the book until the bad review was pushed off the bottom of the page. And that is exactly what the publisher did. Make sure you understand that the new, good reviews were fakes written by the publisher’s employees and signed by phony names.

NEVER give out your name and address

Once, when I first was selling through Amazon, they called me direct to buy a book that one of their customers had ordered. I asked for the name and address of the customer. “Oh, we have told our customers that we will NEVER give their name and address to anyone.”

“So how do I get them the book then?” I asked.

They told me to send it to them and they would resend it to the customer. Previously, in the conversation, I asked them what discount they were expecting from me. They told me they would agree to whatever I wanted. So I said 20% which is way low for a book store. They agreed.

When I heard that they were only getting a 20% discount and that they were going to pay me shipping costs to ship it to them plus more shipping and handling costs to reship it to the customer I pointed out, “You can’t make a profit on this transaction.” The Amazon employee, who sounded like a little old lady, assured me that Amazon was not concerned about that. Tell me about it.

A year or two later, a scandal erupted when it was discovered that Amazon was, after all, selling the names and addresses of its customers to other companies to try to make its first profit. This was a scandal because Amazon, as part of its “we’re different from other businessmen” shtick had ballyhooed that they would NEVER do that as I described above.

Hypocrites!

Out of print

If you search for my books at Amazon’s Web site, they will frequently tell you that the book in question is out of print. In almost every case, that’s a lie. I only have one out-of-print title and that is Office Building Acquisition Handbook.

What is the effect of Amazon telling this lie about my books? The customer, who was either completely or partly convinced to buy the book, is unsold. Believing the book no longer exists, he or she most likely looks to see what other books by other authors Amazon offers on that same subject.

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This costs me sales that I have earned and rips me off.

On 4/29/07, my son checked Amazon and said they stopped doing this. Apparently they finally read this page and took action. My previous efforts to get them to do that got no results.

‘We can get Reed’s book in 4 to 6 weeks’

Another thing Amazon will tell you if you inquire about many of my books is that they sell it, but it takes four to six weeks to get.

That is also a lie. I am the author and publisher of my books. That means I am the sole source of them. I refuse to sell them to Amazon even if they pay full retail price plus shipping. So they cannot acquire a new copy of any of my books. They can only get a few used ones.

So what happens if you order such a book? They take your credit card information and send you a confirmation that they will send you my book in 4 to 6 weeks. Then, after a month or so, they send you another email or post card saying something to the effect that they could not get the book after all.

Most likely, they suggest you buy a book on the same subject by another author that they do have in stock. In the case of my coaching and tax books, this most likely costs me a sale because the sports season has by then begun or the tax return has been filed and the customer no longer wants the book because it ’s too late to make full use of it.

On 4/29/07, my son checked Amazon and said they stopped doing this. Apparently they finally read this page and took action. My previous efforts to get them to do that got no results.

Judge rips Jeff Bezos a new one in Toys R Us case

Amazon entered into a contract with Toys R Us to sell Toys R Us toys, games, and baby products on the Amazon Web site. To do the deal, Toys R Us had to shut down its own Web site. Over time, Toys R Us complained that Amazon was selling toys from competing companies on the Amazon Web site. Toys R Us said that violated their agreement with Amazon and sued them. A judge agreed. Not only did she agree, but she had a number of damning things to say about the integrity of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his company.

Ina 3/15/06 Wall Street Journal article, Lee Gomes said,

Time’s Man of the Year for 1999, one of the Web’s legendary entrepreneurs, behaving like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar? Jeff Bezos, say it isn’t so. Alas, it is, at least according to a New Jersey judge.”

On 3/2/06, New Jersey Superior Court judge Margaret Mary McVeigh declared Toys R Us the winner of the lawsuit and invalidated the contract between Amazon and Toys R Us. According to Gomes, “The judge portrayed the company as being secretly contemptuous of its business partners and slippery, bordering on mendacious, in dealing with the court.” Associated Press said the judge called Amazon executives, “obstinate, arrogant, and even childish.”

The court decided that the contract made Toys R Us the exclusive seller of toys on the Amazon Web site. Bezos testified that such a thing never occurred to him. When Toys R Us’s lawyer showed him a contrary email in court, the judge wrote in her opinion, “in a rather childlike fashion, he tried to convince the court that he was unaware there was a problem.”

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The judge also said Bezos’ memory was selective and that he changed the definitions of words depending on whether he was talking to Toys R Us when they signed the contract or the court. “Mr. Bezos’ understanding of the exclusivity granted to [Toys R Us] would not be any different than what Jeff Bezos wished exclusivity to be.” The judge all but called Bezos a liar saying, “This court has no doubt his knowledge and understanding went deeper than revealed.”

Gomes said the court’s decision is a how-to guide for violating a contract.

The judge said Amazon stopped adhering to the agreement very gradually in an apparent attempt to prevent Toys R Us from noticing or having much to complain about at any given time. But both Toys R Us and the court saw the cumulative effect and Amazon did not get away with it.

Gap, Inc., Circuit City, and Drugstore.com previously got fed up with Amazon and ended their partnerships with them.

Another Wall Street Journal article on 3/3/06 by Mylene Mangalindan quotes Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpru as saying, “There are now a lot of retailers who are very, very skeptical of any attempt to get into bed with [Amazon]. Their terms [for retailers] aren’t as favorable as they’d like them to be, and Amazon is known to be a tough negotiator.”

The Associated Press article said Amazon is also in trouble with many on Wall Street because it is too secretive for a publicly-traded company. David Garrity, director of research at Hapoalim Securities USA Inc. said, “Jeff’s gotta be a stand-up guy in the eyes of not only potential business partners, but investors.” Apparently Mr. Garrity never heard the old saying, “You can’t teach a young, dot.com billionaire new tricks.”

Violating my copyright

Amazon has also taken the first chapter from my book Youth Baseball Coaching and put it on their Web site to sell that book, which I refuse to sell to them. So they are giving away the first chapter to my book to help themselves sell the occasional used copy of it.

I did not give them permission to reprint that chapter on their Web site. I complained about it. They ignored me—in violation of federal copyright law. But Jeff Bezos position seems to be, “I’m a billionaire and Time Man of the Year. I don’t have to comply with laws or respect other people’s rights.”

Last I heard, that chapter of my book is still at the Amazon Web site. Scumbags!

On 4/29/07, my son checked Amazon and said they stopped doing this. Apparently they finally read this page and took action. My previous efforts to get them to do that got no results.

Amazon is two-faced

In short, Amazon is a two-faced, hypocritical organization. To the media and consumers who buy from them, they are touchy-feely great guys with great service and great prices. To the companies who supply them with the products they sell, they are jerks who cannot be trusted. If you come in the “front door” as a retail customer, you meet the Dr. Jekyll version of Amazon. But if you come in the “back door,” you deal with Amazon’s Mr. Hyde.

John T. Reed