Is Amazon Too Much Trouble to Deal With? One Pub Says Yes

In Discussion by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

logo barefootEarlier this year while at the London Book Fair, we reported on how publishers were becoming increasingly disgruntled with Amazon. Complaints ranged from getting squeezed on terms to slow response from Amazon to changing Web errors to the company the company flouting territorial copyright.

Now, at least one publisher says, “life’s too short for this.”

International Business Times reports reports that the Cambridge, MA based independent children’s book publisher Barefoot Books (see our coverage of their 20th anniversary “Barefoot Books: Making a Difference by Selling Differently” here) is cutting ties with in both North American and the U.K., because the company “does not align with Barefoot’s commitment to diversity and grassroots values.”

The company will continue to sell its books to the education market, as well as independent bookstores, the more than 6000 “ambassadors” who sell Barefoot’s books through their home-based businesses, as well as through their own website, while maintaining its ties with distributors Baker & Taylor and Ingram.

Barefoot Books Co-founders

Barefoot Books Co-founders Nancy Traversy and Tessa Strickland

But why would a small book publisher divorce itself from the world’s largest bookseller?

It wasn’t a hasty decision — years of “lowball price-fixing, delayed payments and frustrating interactions with Amazon’s automated publisher services,” all took their toll,” says Nancy Traversy, co-founder and CEO of Barefoot Books. “We couldn’t even talk to a human being. It’s not a very satisfying way of doing business.”

And the final nail in the coffin? Traversy told IBT that a Barefoot ambassador in the UK let it be known that Amazon was selling Barefoot Books titles at 80% below the regular retail price. IBT notes that “both publishers and retailers have long complained about what they say is Amazon’s strong-arm method of forcing books down to a price level that makes profitability almost impossible.”

Since making the announcement, Traversy has been gratified by the outpouring of support on her decision, with some writing that other publishers would follow in her (barefoot) path. Was she surprised by the public’s support? As she told IBT,

“I know there’s the perception of the ‘big, bad Amazon,’ so I’m not that surprised. I was just to see it was positive. These things can go either way.”

This is not the first time that Barefoot Books has gone its own way. Seven years ago, the company stopped selling its titles to Barnes & Noble and Borders, when those were the companies seen as the largest threat to independent bookstores and publishers.

Tell us, is Amazon becoming too difficult to deal with? Is the American giant making life harder for small pubs? Have you done anything in response?

Let us know what you think and share your experiences in the comments.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.