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Writers call for 1 May Amazon, eBay boycott

BookSurge 'stranglehold' causes row

UK Arts Council-funded YouWriteOn – a site for struggling authors keen to see their names in print - is calling for a day-long boycott of Amazon on 1 May over the online retailer's insistence that print on demand (POD) books sold through its site use its own BookSurge service.

Edward Smith, manager of YouWriteOn, called for the 24-hour-long protest as an adjunct to and in solidarity with consumers intending to boycott the eBay online auction site on the same day.

eBay has invited customer ire due to a change in its setup that means sellers will no longer be able to leave feedback about buyers from whom they have bought.

According to Smith, at sites such as eBay, reputation is everything. What customers say about you in terms of trustworthiness and reliability determines whether other people will buy from you in the future.

Smith reasons that Amazon also has a reputation at stake. He questions how forcing writers to use its online printing service can be seen as fair.

Smith isn’t the only one to see Amazon’s approach as anti-competitive. In the US, The American Society of Journalists and Authors and The US Authors Guild have taken Amazon to task over the anti-competitive nature of its BookSurge demands.

Smith goes on to explain that “Anti-Amazon action has led to the Washington District Attorneys Office being involved to examine complaints about whether Amazon's actions constitute restraint of trade or otherwise violate antitrust laws.”

In the US, POD books not printed through the Amazon BookSurge publishing service cannot be bought directly via the Amazon.com website’s Buy Now option. Instead, authors have to rescind 55 percent of the cover price of each book sold to Amazon which the retailer lists through its Advantage scheme. Until now, authors could get their POD literary efforts listed by Amazon for a far healthier 25 percent cut.

YouWriteOn is a website to help promote and assist the development of new writers. An Arts Council-funded initiative, it works on a peer reviews basis whereby each month the highest-ranked writer receives professional critiques from agents and publishers such as Bloomsbury, Random House and Orion.


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