The New York Times' recent feature on Amazon, which focuses on how much control the tech giant exerts over the book business and how detrimental that control might be for the sector's health, has provoked a response from the company. Specifically, Amazon responded to claims in the article that it takes a lax approach to policing the sale of counterfeit books on its website, saying, in a blog post, that it "strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products" and takes "take proactive steps to drive counterfeits in our stores to zero."
The complaint that Amazon does little to police the sale of counterfeit books is a familiar one. It's also one that the company has continually shot down. When PW reached out to Amazon about the claims in the Times article, asking the company if it wanted to further combat claims made in the piece, a spokesperson said the blog post stands as Amazon's response.
In the Times article, author David Strietfeld quotes a handful of aggrieved authors, whose books sales have suffered because of the availability of counterfeit copies of their work on the website. Strietfeld claimed Amazon "takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells." He added that the tactic "has resulted in a kind of lawlessness" that plagues the retail giant.
Amazon, however, remains defiant that it is doing more than enough to combat the issue. In its blog post, the company claimed that in 2018 alone it "invested over $400 million in personnel and tools built on machine learning and data science to protect our customers from fraud and abuse in our stores."
The flare-up over the counterfeit books has echoes to the controversy created when Amazon began permitting third-party sellers to take control of the buy buttons for books. While Amazon's policy said the books sold by third parties must be new, many publishers questioned if that was really the case. Amazon said it checked the source of books that third-party sellers were offering and if they were not new they would remove them. And while some publishers said Amazon tried to police the third-party sellers, they said it was almost impossible to ensure all books sold by third-party sellers were new.