Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Amazon has recently implemented a policy change that may or may not affect all of us in the publishing industry. I can't quite figure out what policy Amazon is changing, however, and I've been scratching my head over this for two days. I've now read three articles on the subject (here's one article from LibraryThing itself), and I'm no wiser than I was before.

Here's the part that I think I understand. LibraryThing is moving book-buying links to all booksellers besides Amazon from its main pages to subsidiary pages. It's doing that, if I understand correctly, because Amazon will no longer share information with any subsidiaries that have links to booksellers other than Amazon on their home pages.

Here's the part that puzzles me, as a book publicist. All of my clients, it would be fair to say, have web sites (authors and publishers should know, at this point, that book web sites are an integral part of any book promotion campaign). And most of them -- not all of them, but most of them -- work with multiple booksellers and link to them on their web sites. What does Amazon want from these authors? Does Amazon want these authors to only provide book-buying links to Amazon on their sites? Well, yes, I'm sure they want that. But does Amazon's policy change mean that authors will be penalized if they include book-buying links to, say, Borders and BN.com on their sites?

At first blush, I'd say that authors' web sites will not be affected by Amazon's policy change. I say that because an author doesn't have to be an Amazon affiliate in order to have a book-buying link to Amazon on his or her web site. Authors can put generic links to Amazon on the home pages of their web sites (or, for that matter, on subsidiary pages), and then they'll be flying under Amazon's radar -- I think. However, I don't know for sure. I don't know for sure that authors would be penalized by Amazon for having book-buying links to booksellers other than Amazon on their home pages if they catch Amazon's attention -- say, by having a bestselling book.

I can't make sense of Amazon's policy change, and I'm wondering whether anyone can. Is Amazon acting like a toddler who needs to test his/her limits, or is it actually setting sensible policy rules? That probably remains to be seen.