Amazon’s “Buy Button” Policy

The publishing world is all abuzz with the latest Amazon change. It has to do with Amazon’s “Buy Button” policy change in regards to new books sold on the site.

A Little History

Last November, Amazon began allowed third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. Third-party re-sellers on Amazon can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outlined by Amazon, which includes price, availability, and delivery time (see

The program is only open to new books, defined by Amazon as “brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition. The dust cover and original protective wrapping, if any, is intact. All supplementary materials are included and all access codes for electronic material, if applicable, are valid and/or in working condition.”

Amazon has long allowed third-party sellers to compete with Amazon for the sale of new items. Up until last year, books were exempt from this program with Amazon selling the publisher’s copy of a book as the first listed seller. Interestingly, Amazon currently does not sell or stream copies of other copyrighted works—movies and television programs—that are distributed by anyone other than the authorized distributor. In other words, third party sellers cannot sell these copyrighted new works.

The Concern

Of course, publishers are concerned that they will not get their fair share of retail price for new books sold by third-party sellers on Amazon. Where do these third-party sellers get their books? Generally, not from the publishers. Publishers and authors make the most money from books sold directly through Amazon because these books are purchased directly from them (although sometimes through the publisher’s distributor).

Many authors and publishers have also expressed concern that the books being listed as “new” by third-party sellers are not really “new”. If you believe your book (or anyone’s book) is being sold as “new” by a third-party seller—but really isn’t a new book—you can file a complaint with Amazon (see


Anytime Amazon makes a major policy change, many speculate as to the motivation behind the move. Two theories are being kicked around.

  1. Amazon is trying to expand its POD offering and wants to encourage publishers and authors to use its POD services. After all, it appears that, for the most part, books sold via Createspace and IngramSpark still have Amazon as the primary “buy” button.
  2. The other speculated motivation is that Amazon wants to reduce their storage and labor costs by giving preference to third-party buyers. In doing so, Amazon will have less books to stock and move in their warehouses.

Personally, I also wonder how much Amazon just changes things up every so often to stay in the news. Every change brings lots of buzz, so the strategy seems to work if that is what they are after.

As a consumer who buys books on Amazon, I find the third-party buy button very annoying. It makes me have to double and triple check that I am actually buying the book from Amazon and not a third-party seller that will make me pay shipping.

I would love to hear if and how Amazon’s buy button policy has effected your book listing and sales on the site.

Related Posts:
Amazon is Still King
Amazon is Not a Distributor
Amazon: Christian Authors Beware

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Amazon Stays Ahead of the Curve

The big news for authors last week was that Amazon is now providing Nielson Bookscan’s data to their Author Central authors for free.

What does this mean?

First, to get access to this information, you must be an author with books listed on and you must be registered with Amazon’s Author Central. Nielson Bookscan provides book sales data for print books sold throughout the United States. They get their sales data from participating retailers, including Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target, and A number of retailers do not participate in this program, including Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Sales listed by Nielson Bookscan do not include ebook sales (including Kindle), wholesale purchases, or sales to libraries.

I think it is absolutely fantastic that Amazon is providing this information to their authors. It is this sort of innovative offering that has kept Amazon the number one source for books for years. Did you know that Amazon accounted for 22 percent of all book sales in 2009 (19 percent of print books and 90 percent of ebooks)?

When I learned that Amazon was providing authors this data, I trotted (virtually of course) on over to my Amazon Central Author Page to look at what Bookscan reported on recent book sales of my books.

Here is what I found.

Nielson Bookscan provides reports on sales of books by week and sales by geography (where in the United States books were sold). Since BookScan relies on retailer reports of sales, they do not report all books sold. BookScan estimates that they report 75 percent of retail book sales.

Since I sell Christian books, BookScan probably reports much less than 75 percent of the retail book sales from my books. Many independent Christian bookstores (those more likely to carry my titles) do not report sales to BookScan.

Since I have multiple books for sales on Amazon, BookScan data provided me with the total number of books I had sold within the last four weeks by title. In other words, I am able to track how many books of each title were sold.

The biggest drawback I found with the data had to do with the sales by geography section. This section does not allow me to find out where a particular title was sold, only where my books overall were sold. Since I have both adult and children’s books, I would find it helpful to know if my children’s book were being sold more heavily in one region. If I knew this, I could concentrate more advertising and marketing effort in that region. Since I can’t break down sales of title by region, the geographic information is not as helpful as I had hoped.

Overall, I give Amazon a thumbs up for taking the initiative and making this great sales information available to authors. If you are the author of books being sold on Amazon and are not signed up with Amazon’s Author Central, I encourage you to do it today.