I find this article strange for a couple of reasons.
1. It seems not to discuss the main reasons retailers give steep discounts
–a. Loss leaders: Customers come to buy $1 Fruit Loops and they pick up a $12 case of Pepsi because they’re in the store already and they need Pepsi, so why not? If a book isn’t attractive enough to customers to serve as a loss leader–in other words, if it’s not the type of book people buy and then say “Hmm, is there anything else I was wanting?”–why should it be discounted?
–b. Making Room in the Warehouse: A retailer has 350 copies of A City of Ghosts in stock and they’re selling one a month. Now, in publishing, it’s possible to just ship those books back to the publisher. But in most retail situations, it’s not. So, if you want to get your stock of A City of Ghosts down to a reasonable supply, you deeply discount the book in order to move it. But Amazon is a book retailer. They don’t have to keep more stock than they need. Hell, in an era of print-on-demand and a willingness to put “Book available in 4 to 6 weeks” on an item, they technically don’t have to keep any stock. They just print it or order it from the publisher when someone orders it from them. So, if they don’t need to lower inventory, why should they discount books?
2. It doesn’t address the fact that, if a book has a $35 list price and the sales patterns show that it will only sell for $29, the problem isn’t with Amazon knocking the retail price back up closer to list. It’s with the publisher not lowering the list price down to what the market will bear. If Amazon doesn’t have warehouse stock (and especially if Amazon isn’t obliged to keep the stock they have without returning it), it’s not actually Amazon’s problem to find a price people are willing to pay for your book. That’s the publisher’s problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in love with Amazon. But some of the complaints people have about them I’d be embarrassed to make. It’s Amazon’s job to sell the books they have. If you know they don’t technically have your book, it’s ludicrous to complain that they don’t pretend they do.