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Books Businesses Japan

Japanese Publishers Lash Out At Amazon's Policies 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-not-play-nice-with-others dept.
Nate the greatest writes: Amazon is in a bitter contract fight with Hachette in the U.S. and Bonnier in Germany, and now it seems the retail giant is also in conflict with publishers in Japan. Amazon has launched a new rating system in Japan which gives preference to publishers with larger ebook catalogs (and publishers that pay higher fees), leading to complaints that Amazon is using its market power to blackmail publishers. Where have we heard that complaint before?

The retailer is also being boycotted by a handful of Japanese publishers who disagree with Amazon offering a rewards program to students. The retailer gives students 10% of a book's price as points, which can be used to buy more books. This skirts Japanese fixed-price book laws, so several smaller publishers pulled their books from Amazon in protest. Businesses are out to make money and not friends, but Amazon sure is a lightning rod for conflicts, isn't it?
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Japanese Publishers Lash Out At Amazon's Policies

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  • First sale (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @01:07PM (#47785489)

    Once you sell something to me, it's none of your business if I choose to re-sell it. In particular, the price I charge is none of you business.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Japan doesn't have First Sale doctrine.

      • by tepples (727027)
        In Japan, when someone buys a book, is it stuck with him for eternity? Is it, for instance, buried with him? If not, what does Japan have instead of first sale doctrine for books?
    • Re:First sale (Score:5, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday August 29, 2014 @01:37PM (#47785723)

      Once you sell something to me, it's none of your business if I choose to re-sell it. In particular, the price I charge is none of you business.

      First Sale Doctrine [wikipedia.org] is American law, not Japanese. Book publishing in Japan is a cozy protected racket. Even magazines can cost the equivalent of $10-15 per issue. Amazon is going against deeply entrenched special interests. I wish them luck, but it will not be easy.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        There are several such cozy protected rackets in japan. Video games is another.

      • The great thing about ebooks is that this is tempest in a teacup. There is NO barrier to entry so the protectionist rackets will have to come down. The end of their era is over, and its time to apply force to show them the future. I love what is amazon is doing to force everyone to see that ebooks are way WAY overpriced for the Information Age.
        • There is NO barrier to entry so the protectionist rackets will have to come down. The end of their era is over

          Or at least it will be in three years and change. That's how much longer the 1-Click patent family (U.S. Patent 5,960,411 and foreign counterparts) has left, based on the priority date of 1997-09-12 and the common worldwide patent term of twenty years.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeeeb (1141117)

        First Sale Doctrine is American law, not Japanese. Book publishing in Japan is a cozy protected racket. Even magazines can cost the equivalent of $10-15 per issue. Amazon is going against deeply entrenched special interests. I wish them luck, but it will not be easy.

        Coming from Australia, I find books incredibly cheap in Japan. 750yen ($7.50) for a novel. I'm not sure where you are getting $10-$15 for magazines either. Most I've seen are about half that. For example Toyo-keizai (Japanese equiv. of the economist) is only 650yen ($6.50). The manga magazines are even cheaper than that.

  • by bmo (77928) on Friday August 29, 2014 @01:11PM (#47785531)

    Halve your margin and triple your sales.

    >NO BREAKS TO ANYBODY, ESPECIALLY STUDENTS

    It's like they're begging for piracy to happen.

    --
    BMO

    • by Jeeeb (1141117)

      Halve your margin and triple your sales. >NO BREAKS TO ANYBODY, ESPECIALLY STUDENTS It's like they're begging for piracy to happen.

      Text books in Japan aren't actually very expensive. A typical text book might be about $20~$30 and doesn't include bullshit attempts to circumvent your ability to resell it.

  • Time to compete.

    Oh and by the way, welcome to capitalism.

    • Unsure about the concept of monopolies and the pressures they can bring to bear suppressing competition are we?
      • What praytell is preventing them from starting their own Amazons? It's not like they're short of a few bucks. Although to be honest I expect the ultimate fallout from this conflict to be writers circumventing publishers entirely and just working with editors and artists directly.

        • What praytell is preventing them from starting their own Amazons?

          Sure, because it's *so* easy to create a successful online bookseller. Gee, why didn't anyone think of that before? Those Japanese people must be idiots. Baka yaroo.

          • It is if they're willing to play it smart enough.

            I mean you didn't think that computer you're typing on was so cheap because the manufacturers decided to give you a winning personality discount, did you?

            Also I'd advise anyone whining about monopolies to take a good long look at the standard contracts existing publishers make authors sign, as we're on the subject.

            • Also I'd advise anyone whining about monopolies to take a good long look at the standard contracts existing publishers make authors sign, as we're on the subject.

              Old individual-punishing contracts were the result of the vaunted Free Market model as well. Which suggests to me that the free market model sucks. It rewards psychopaths, results in shitty systems which punish the public and takes the creative principle for ransom.

              It would be much better for everybody if we were to rationally decide what kind

              • It rewards psychopaths, results in shitty systems which punish the public and takes the creative principle for ransom.

                Bwahaha you slackjawed imbecile, you realise you've just described the actual outcomes of everything marxist?

                and budding psychopaths who hope that they can scramble their way up the mountain of bodies

                For reals, over 100 million people would like a word. And they seem a bit pissed.

                Possibly just maybe your polisci 101 lecturer wasn't giving you an honest education, dipshit.

                Food for thought.

                • Bwahaha you slackjawed imbecile, you realise you've just described the actual outcomes of everything marxist?

                  Bwa-ha-ha you slack-jawed imbecile, you realize there are more possible ways to structure an economy than capitalist so-called "free markets", and Marxism-degraded-into-Stalinism-or-Maoism, right?

                  On maybe, like most Americans brought up on a century of Red Scares, you don't.

                  • Go ahead and ask the average person in Eastern Europe what they think about marxism and they won't be long setting you very straight indeed, tms. But of course they weren't doing it right were they. Nobody seems to do it right, despite millions dying. Odd, that.

                  • Western European countries have been both Socialist and Capitalist since the second world war. Regulated capitalism is something we used to have in the US before the the Clinton administration removed most federal oversight of the capitol markets. If the laws on the books now were actually enforced we may have dodged the worst of the last recession.

                    The only thing pure capitalism does is make the rich more money and fleece everyone else. The markets need to be regulated. "Free Market" as a concept is an abso

                • It rewards psychopaths, results in shitty systems which punish the public and takes the creative principle for ransom.

                  Bwahaha you slackjawed imbecile, you realize you've just described the actual outcomes of everything marxist?

                  And the MPAA, RIAA , IPFI and the goverment of Taiji, wakayama prefecture of Japan

          • Why should it be easy? Amazon didn't have it easy.

        • by firex726 (1188453)

          Would be kinda interesting having an eBay for talent like that. The more busy or talented they were the higher the price.

        • What praytell is preventing them from starting their own Amazons?.

          The major publishing houses, freedom of speech and a billionaire who knows how to conduct business in the countries with the highest corporate tax on the planet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Compete with a company that pays virtually no taxes and whose share holders don't mind that it does not make a profit?

  • Every marketer and customer gets some easy benefit from a single marketplace to go with the most customers(for marketers) or marketers(for customers), maximizing the competitiveness of their respective markets. In the physical world, this naturalmonopoly is mitigated more than a little by the utility of physical proximity.

    It's a bit like how social networks are successful because that's where all your friends are, but more complex since it involves multiple kinds of participants.

    Amazon has filled that role

    • Every marketer and customer gets some easy benefit from a single marketplace

      Until the single marketplace uses its market power to exclude sellers entirely from a market. This has allegedly happened in the markets for iOS apps and console games. What editorial power does Amazon exercise over its Kindle store, other than to remove obvious copyright infringements and erotica [slashdot.org]? Is the "preference to publishers with larger ebook catalogs" a way of dealing with the likes of VDM [slashdot.org] and 30 Percent Fewer Shades of Grey [yahoo.com]?

      • by Karlt1 (231423)

        Until the single marketplace uses its market power to exclude sellers entirely from a market. This has allegedly happened in the markets for iOS apps and console games. What editorial power does Amazon exercise over its Kindle store, other than to remove obvious copyright infringements and erotica [slashdot.org]? Is the "preference to publishers with larger ebook catalogs" a way of dealing with the likes of VDM [slashdot.org] and 30 Percent Fewer Shades of Grey [yahoo.com]?

        What do you think is going to happ

        • by tepples (727027)

          What do you think is going to happen when Amazon runs everyone else out of business?

          That depends on what you think keeps other companies from going into business.

          • That depends on what you think keeps other companies from going into business.

            Right. All another company has to do is make distribution deals with all the major publishers, get people to give up their e-ink readers and make apps for every major platform....

            And then Amazon starts back selling below cost just long enough to run them out of business...

            That should be real easy....

            • by tepples (727027)

              All another company has to do is make distribution deals with all the major publishers

              Sorry I wasn't clear. I meant from the perspective of a publisher seeking to distribute its own works.

              get people to give up their e-ink readers

              How closely are e-ink readers coupled to their respective stores? Can they not read epub or mobi format?

              and make apps for every major platform

              Which major platform doesn't already have a reader for epub or mobi format?

              • You really think major publishers are going to give up their DRM? Even if you assume they will, are customers suppose to go to 8 different websites and know which publisher publishes which book?

                • by tepples (727027)

                  are customers suppose to go to 8 different websites and know which publisher publishes which book?

                  They could go to the book review site where they learned about the book in the first place and follow the link to the publisher's page for the book. Or they could find the page in a generic web search engine, such as Bing or Google.

                  • So how does that help "discoverability"? Amazon is able to recommend books based on the buying habits of others with similar taste as those with my buying history. They are able to list the top sellers, etc - none of which would be available on 8 different websites.

                    Then that also means that you have to sign up for 8 different websites and give your payment information to 8 different websites. Do you really think this would be more convenient than going to one website, buy an ebook and then it automatically

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday August 29, 2014 @01:19PM (#47785595)

    Time to sue Apple again and make sure there is zero viable competition remaining for eBooks. Make that rubble bounce.

    • Apple was only ever competing in the eBook industry on their own devices - and they were hurting the rest of us reading eBooks on other platforms.

      When I can read my Apple eBooks on anything other than an IOS device, then they are in competition, until then they are just a negative on the industry as they are treating IOS as the entire market when dealing with publishers, which affects me over here on a platform Apple will never touch.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by SuperKendall (25149)

        When I can read my Apple eBooks on anything other than an IOS device

        You can also read it on any Apple computer.

        The point is there was competition, without competition consumers eventually suffer. it doesn't matter if that competition is on devices from a particular company.

        It's a shame you are too short sighted to understand this simple fact. You are the very definition of the phrase "those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Oh wow, on an *Apple* computer.

          That makes all the difference! There is competition in the market!

          Of course it fucking matters if the competition is only within one very small segment of the market, it means a much higher cost of entry for the consumer - to read my Amazon Kindle book all I had to do was download the free Kindle reading app on any one of my Android phone, Android tablet, Apple phone, Apple tablet, Windows Phone, Windows 8 device, Apple computer, Windows 7 computer, Blackberry or a web browser

          • to read my Amazon Kindle book all I had to do was download the free Kindle reading app on any one of my Android phone, Android tablet, Apple phone, Apple tablet, Windows Phone, Windows 8 device, Apple computer, Windows 7 computer, Blackberry or a web browser for the web reader.

            True of books but not video. The only phones that stream Amazon video are the iPhone and Fire Phone. And because the Fire Phone is exclusive to AT&T, that's reduced to one if you happen to live outside AT&T's 4G coverage.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            It doesn't matter if you personally "can't" take advantage of the competition that Apple provides; there are hundreds of millions of people who do, which is a large enough group that Amazon had to take note. (Shame on Amazon, their collaborators that inevitably included Google, and the corrupt or incompetent parts of the American legal system that have perpetuated their monopoly.)

        • by tepples (727027)

          You can also read it on any Apple computer.

          "any current" yes, "any" no. If I could drag out my IIGS (joking) or even an older Mac, that'd be one thing, but it needs to be a sufficiently recent Mac.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          "You can also read it on any Apple computer."

          I can most certainly guarantee your ass my Motorola-powered OS7 Apple laptop can not and will not read those files.

          Also, now days there is no such thing as "an Apple computer" because it's an x86 piece of shit like every other computer out there.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Apple was competing? I thought they got sued for doing the opposite?

  • Simple. Easy. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@gmaiYEATSl.com minus poet> on Friday August 29, 2014 @01:26PM (#47785659) Homepage Journal
    Boycot Amazon. I do, and a lot of people here in central Europe do ( although almost all of the boycotters do live in large cities, with easy access to book stores ). It is actually a physical delight to go, in persona, to a a book store, browse, take your time, and buy -- or place an order for something they don't have in stock. In the latter case, getting the phone call that "your book has arrived, Mr. Faustus" is delightful, too,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Those got driven out of America by big chains 30 years ago. Frankly, I don't enjoy books enough to ever want to deal with a B&M store as mostly what I am buying is technical books, I'd much rather have reviews from people in the field rather then some local bookstore proprietor taking a markup for friendly service. I'd much rather deal with amazon and I'm fine with them putting the screws to the middlemen in that industry after dealing with textbooks, karma is a bitch publishers.

    • You are correct it is a delight to go to a bookstore in person. What is not a delight is to pay the cost being charged for book. I rejoice for every brick knocked out of the publishers monopoly wall. Remember monopolies and high barriers to entry are the antithesis of capitalism.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree with you wholeheartedly about the joys of brick and mortar bookstores. I worked at Borders back during its last gasps, and I heard a lot of the same things from customers. The reason they went tits up however was largely due to failure to price things competitively. Even with a decent employee discount I still mostly bought off of Amazon, because Borders refused to acknowledge that they were basically the only company out there that sold at MSRP. If I buy a lot of books (and I do) and I can get

    • Ugh. So incredibly inefficient. I will consume and process orders of magnitude more information in my lifetime than you will by not clinging to outdated methods of information exchange. Its great that you enjoy it, but keep in mind all of those things that you like will make your books cost significantly more and you will get less information overall due to the physical overhead.
      • by hawguy (1600213)

        Ugh. So incredibly inefficient. I will consume and process orders of magnitude more information in my lifetime than you will by not clinging to outdated methods of information exchange. Its great that you enjoy it, but keep in mind all of those things that you like will make your books cost significantly more and you will get less information overall due to the physical overhead.

        Orders of magnitude more information? How is that possible? Few people have their reading rate limited by the time it takes to buy a book even if they buy it at a store, especially since prodigious readers tend to purchase more than one book per visit. But you somehow read at least 100 times more material than someone that buys books at a store?

        I have a feeling that those that prefer to shop in a book store don't measure their reading effectiveness in "words consumed per unit time", but in enjoyment of the

        • That selection process however is far more limited that what you can find on Amazon. It's nice to enjoy nostalgia but that doesn't mean everyone else does or should.
    • by nblender (741424)

      A pleasure no longer available in my city. The small bookstores were pushed out of the market decades ago by big conglomerates like "Chapters" and "Indigo". "Chapters" has since bought "Indigo" so now there's really only one retailer in the city that sells books, at a dozen locations... The problem is, they also sell scented candles, scented notepads, scented plushies, scented pillows, scented throws, etc... So the place is a veritable onslaught to the senses... My wife and I can endure maybe about 5 minu

    • a physical delight (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anomalyst (742352) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:29PM (#47788707)

      a physical delight to go, in persona, to a book store, browse

      Unless you encounter bookshelves where the fantasy and vampire stories are mixed with the science fiction. I get the urge to go mix the romance shelves with the mysteries in retaliation

  • Book publishers who overprice books and take a big cut for filling an increasingly valueless role vs. retailing supergiant. Meanwhile, fewer and fewer people read books.

  • by fermion (181285) on Friday August 29, 2014 @02:55PM (#47786299) Homepage Journal
    Amazon is trying to squeeze out publishers. Publishers have trouble competing in the ebook market because they publish physical books, so it it not a matter of if but when they slim down or fail. Publishers appear to asking for larger cut to pay for these inefficiencies, while taking a larger slice from authors even though the authors job has not become that much easier.

    Established authors depend on the publishers to limit the availability of books. In the Amazon world with no incentive to limit the number of published books, and to limit titles to those who will sell many copies, many authors are going to be working at a loss. That may explain why evidence that authors are bieng paid less matters less that the thought that Amazon may be in control.

    So there are no good guys and no bad guys here. Just people trying to make money. When books are gone we the next generation is going to miss then no more than we miss leather bond, gold leafed books with each section having a faux-hand-drawn calligraphy character.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Did you even read the article(s) ? It is Amazon who is restricting the supply of books, namely, books from publishers who won't pay up.

      Of course the publishers could just move to a different provider. Except there isn't one. That's what "abusing your market dominance" means.

  • by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Friday August 29, 2014 @05:29PM (#47787227)

    Japan is a heavily business-oriented society, but not in the free market way that we tend to assume. Most consumer markets are locked up by an oligopoly of the largest players. Competition is considered less important than tradition, and the everyday consumer considers it his patriotic duty to pay more for everything he buys so that the Japanese economy can be promoted. The only way for Americans to imagine what this system is like is to think of the US prescription drug model, extended to every market you shop in. Imagine paying pharmacy prices for computers and cabbages.

    When you go there to live, you will be besieged by friends and relatives asking you to buy cameras and electronics "at Tokyo prices" for them. You need to tell them at the outset that a Nikon or a Sony product is a lot cheaper ordered through Amazon right at home than it would be in Japan. THIS is what those Japanese publishers fear from Amazon operating on their own soil.

    • by fullback (968784) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:01PM (#47788199)

      Sorry, but it is not "patriotic duty." I've lived in Japan for over 20 years and most markets are not locked up. There is a sense of community in Japan. Patriotism is not teary-eyed nonsense looking at a colored cloth. It's a sense of living within a society and doing things that benefit a society that's been around for over 1,200 years.

      Japan is small, has no resources, half the population of the US packed into a place the size of California. Police don't kill people and a convenience store robbery (no one gets hurt) is national news.

      The used book business in Japan is huge. People read in Japan; they like books and magazines. They like the touch of paper. It's the most widely read population in the world. People stand at bookstores and read and read and read. The pricing model assures that small publishers exist and a wide variety of books and authors can be published. They are not all gobbled up by conglomerates.

      Japan can do business in Japan however it chooses.

  • The summary says:
    "Amazon has launched a new rating system in Japan which gives preference to publishers with larger ebook catalogs (and publishers that pay higher fees)."
    This is the main point of the post and yet there are not even a mention of how this rating system manipulation works in the articles linked? Online search just shows sites copying the same line from each other and again w/o explanation. Does anyone know?

    • Okay, I got a new hit on Google, it explains the rating system:
      http://www.businessinsider.com... [businessinsider.com]

      User ratings are not changed. Instead, this is a rating system internal to Amazon. Based on your internal Amazon rating, it will chose how to promote your book. I'm assuming this means advertising on other pages, items in the "featured" section, etc. In other words, Amazon is saying that they will more heavily promote books that make them more money.

      To tell you the truth, I'm surprised they don't do that alre

  • Its not just Japan, France and many other countries seem to have laws that limit discounting of books or fix their prices. Why do governments continue to maintain these restrictions?

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