Amazon To Charge for E-mail Book Reviews

Amazon.com confirmed Wednesdaythat it will begin charging book publishers for having their titles appear in e-mail promotions sent to the e-tail giant’s customers.

Word of the new fees was first reported in the Wall Street Journal, whichquoted publishers as saying the fees would start at US$10,000 for the rightto have a book considered for review and that the fees could run as high as$17,000 because of advertising tie-ins.

“It’s an extension of what we’ve already been doing withpublishers,” Amazon spokeswoman Kristin Schaefer told the E-Commerce Times. “I’m not aware of anycomplaints.”

Editors Decide

According to Schaefer, the books will still be screened by Amazon’s editors, and only books deemed worthy of praise will beincluded in the e-mails, which are sent to people who have purchased books from Amazon in the past. Customers will also have access to information about which books are listed in the e-mails because of paid placement.

The program will be up and running within the next few weeks, Schaefer said.

“Purely from a revenue perspective, this is potentially a good movefor Amazon,” Morningstar.com analyst David Kathman told the E-Commerce Times. “But, as always, they’re walking a fine line between using their customer base of 29 million to generate revenue, and alienating those same customers.”

Kathman said Amazon is savvy enough to watch for fallout from the move and act accordingly.

“I’m sure Amazon will gauge the reaction, and that they’re prepared tobacktrack if the backlash is too great,” the analyst said.

Relationship Tense

The latest fees are expected to strain an already tense relationship between Amazon and those in the traditional publishing industry.

In November, Amazon drew fire from both publishers and authors when it started listing used books for sale on its main book site.

Amazon has defended its practice of accepting payment for placement in thepast by pointing that brick-and-mortar retailers engage in the same practice. Forinstance, supermarkets charge manufacturers for the right to have theirproducts displayed prominently on store shelves, and many traditional bookstoreshave similar policies.

Busy Days in Seattle

Amazon has been making headlines ever since it announced it would lay of1,300 workers in a bid for profits by year’s end. On Tuesday, the companyvigorously defended itself from an analyst’s report warning that the company could face acash squeeze from creditors. A company spokesman was quick to say the analyst’s report was “chock full of errors.”

There have also been published accounts of staged employee walkouts at Amazon’s Seattle, Washington headquarters, where hundreds of workers lost theircustomer service jobs as part of the workforce reduction. The protestsreportedly center on a severance agreement that Amazon has asked firedworkers to sign.

Bezos May Sell Stock

Meanwhile, Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos recently told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission thathe may sell some of the Amazon stock he holds personally.

Bezos filed documents with the agency that say he may sell up to 375,000 shares. Those shares have a current market valueof about $6 million. Although the SEC filing frees the shares for sale, it does not necessarily mean they will be sold.

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