Is Amazon cutting its long tail?

“Amazon had over the last few years either lowered discounts on scholarly books or, in the case of older or slow-selling titles, completely eliminated them” said Bruce Joshua Miller, president of Miller Trade Book Marketing, a Chicago firm representing university and independent presses, to DAVID STREITFELD of the new York times (July 4th 2013).

The article claims that As Competition Wanes, Amazon Cuts Back Discounts –  They still offer a lot of discounts on bestsellers, where they have competition, but reduce the discounts on niche titles that can’t really be found in other stores.

Some small publishers are disappointed at Amazon that once was their savior and stood after its slogan about ‘leveling the playing field for small publishers’ but now turned on them.the story reminds me of this cartoon from 2005.

THE SHORT TAIL by Hugh Macleod, 2005
THE SHORT TAIL by Hugh Macleod, 2005

STREITFELD suggests a reason for Amazon’s new discount policy: “In its 16 years as a public company, Amazon has received unique permission from Wall Street to concentrate on expanding its infrastructure, increasing revenue at the expense of profit. Stockholders have pushed Amazon shares up to a record level, even though the company makes only pocket change. Profits were always promised tomorrow. Small publishers wonder if tomorrow is finally here, and they are the ones who will pay for it.”

Amazon is the model of the “long tail theory” – If the things said in the article are true, then this might be a proof that the long tail is not really profitable. Not even for retailers.

Read the full article here.

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