Several readers have asked why we allow Return to Order, the quintessential book denouncing frenetic intemperance, to be carried on Amazon and even use the firm as a means of distribution. It would seem a contradiction to utilize this frenzied company which also supports all sorts of liberal causes.
Indeed, Amazon embodies so much of the frenetic intemperance that upends markets. It has gobbled up competition relying upon its immense resources with a market share that borders on monopoly. The firm demands large discounts from publishers and insists that publishers not undercut their prices. It will frequently disregard cover prices, thereby depriving authors of their hard-earned gains. It is the site authors love to hate.
And so the question is why would we put Return to Order on Amazon. The first clarification is that most modern books cannot be taken off Amazon. The company has access to the large book distributors and would order the books from them directly anyway upon perceiving there is demand for them. The publisher also cannot prevent the sale of used copies of their books that are carried on the Amazon site. Like it or not, publishers are captive to the retail giant which has a market share of well over 50 percent of all books sold.
Not only does Amazon have a hold on a book’s selling but also in its promotion. Any authors who seek to get the word out about their works will watch helplessly as talk show host after talk show host refers audiences to Amazon. Book reviews will often carry the unsolicited notice that the book can be obtained on Amazon. Everyone sends interested parties to Amazon which takes a major cut of the profits. Many authors and publishers simply give up on competing and use the store as their primary distributor.
With this said, we can explain why Return to Order is carried by Amazon. While the book is listed with Amazon, we do not rely upon the giant as its main distributor. In fact, the campaign to distribute the book uses every possible means to circumvent the company. Of the nearly 13,000 hard-bound copies sold thus far, less than 1.75 percent were sold by Amazon. All the others were sold using traditional means and hard work such as personal contacts, website sales, signings and event tables. We recognize that Amazon serves as a source of free advertising for the book since readers have posted scores of favorable and unsolicited reviews on its site. In other words, the sales on Amazon amount to little more than those sales that would normally appear for a book of this great scope with or without the cooperation of the publisher.
The second question is why does the Return to Order campaign promote a Kindle version of the book on Amazon. As is well known, the market for e-books is rapidly expanding. Again Amazon’s Kindle has a huge part of market share—close to 80 percent. Granted, there are a few much smaller alternatives, but the most significant e-book format is Kindle.
Here too though, very few Kindle copies of Return to Order were sold. Of the nearly 7,000 e-copies out there, the vast majority (94%) were distributed free of charge to interested parties. As a promotion tool, Amazon allows publishers a limited number of days per quarter in which they can offer the book free to readers as a means to create buzz around a book. We have used this option aggressively. In other words, the Return to Order campaign, which seeks the maximum distribution of its ideas, uses the vast Amazon network as a free distribution channel for thousands of Kindle copies. Moreover, this service allows the campaign to send Return to Order e-books to all parts of the world which would never have access to the book were it not for the e-format and the free offer—and not a penny is added to Amazon’s deep coffers.
Given the fact that books cannot get away from Amazon, our goal is to use Amazon and not be used by it. We are doing just that.