Japan publishers lash out at new Amazon rules

Japan publishers lash out at new Amazon rules

TOKYO - A group of Japanese publishers have lashed out at Amazon's new book sale rules, after US and European authors accused the online retailer of using strong-arm negotiating tactics.

Several Tokyo-based publishers said Amazon recently unveiled a four-point system that rates them based on the size of the commission they pay for selling books on the US company's vast website, among other criteria.

Amazon then pushes hardest to promote books from publishers who agreed to the most favourable contract terms, which directly impacts how a book sells, they said, confirming a report by Japan's Asahi newspaper this week.

"Many publishers are in talks with Amazon to renew their two-year contracts, but this time they're facing heavy demands from the company, which has grown rapidly here," one publishing source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Some smaller publishers are facing demands to accept a surge in commission fees... or see their contract terminated.

"If this kind of practice continues, small Japanese publishers who have created a diverse publishing culture here will be forced to go bankrupt," he said.

Amazon was abusing its increasingly dominant position in Japan's books market, the publishers alleged.

"We're not sure if linking promotion and commission fees to book circulation... is a fair business practice," another source said.

In response, Amazon's Japanese unit described the matter as a private one between the company and publishers.

"We decline to comment on this issue as it is linked to contracts," it said.

The criticism comes after a German minister last week threw her weight behind authors battling Amazon over claims it was employing heavy-handed tactics with publishers.

German-language authors have accused Amazon of delaying the release of books and boycotting authors signed to publishing houses in dispute with the US company.

American writers have also protested over Amazon's dispute with publishing conglomerate Hachette which represents authors including JK Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell and James Patterson, accusing the company of "taking writers hostage" in its e-books pricing battle.

In France, a new law aimed at supporting small bookshops bans online giants such as Amazon from delivering books without charge, but it allows them to set discounts of up to five per cent, the maximum allowed under existing French legislation.

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