Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Retailers End Loyalty and Reward Programs

I’m not certain why but retailers are discontinuing all ebook loyalty and reward programs. Fictionwise put up a link (but did not make a front page announcement) that Buywise program has been discontinued.

The Fictionwise Buywise Club can no longer be renewed and new subscriptions are no longer available. All existing Buywise Club members may continue to use their benefits until their memberships expire.

- The Fictionwise Team

Terms of the Buywise club membership entitled a club member to a 15% discount on all Fictionwise eBooks for the entire length of the membership (picture). Thus, I have asked for a prorated refund of my Buywise membership. I had purchased a 5 year one and I have three years left on the membership.

KoboBooks pointed out that under this new Apple pricing scheme by publishers, loyalty programs, coupons and the like are not allowed:

We lose most of our ability to issue coupons, promotions, special discounts, kickbacks, buy-X-get-one-free. We could still do it for non-agency titles, but then we end up in a weird situation of "Get $1 off, but only on these books, and definitely not on these other ones." That's not fun. And worse, it's confusing to consumers. We're sad about that, obviously. Not just because they're a great way for us to drive sales, but because they help us focus attention on specific great books, reward our loyal customers, and celebrate the launch of new features, apps or services.

But you know, this really isn’t Agency pricing. As noted by the Smashwords pricing outline, Apple is determining a price range for books so publishers aren’t truly able to set their prices independently. What publishers are doing is engaging in retail price maintenance, forcing all retailers to price the books exactly the same. This won’t increase new entrants into the market because small competitors can’t afford host/serve the books themselves which is what they would have to do now that the “Agency 5″ are requiring the digital distributor and the retailer to share in a 30% commission.

Readers are just now seeing the ill effects of this Apple pricing scheme with the loss of all the discounts that we are used to. We get what the publishers have decided we should pay, not what the market deems appropriate.

How can readers fight back? I really don’t know. I’m frustrated today. I’m not sure why, unless the contracts disallow it, that publishers can’t continue a loyalty program that provides a kickback. After all the books would still be sold at the price set by the publisher. Readers are simply supplementing their money with money provided by a retailer much like a real estate agent might choose to reduce her commission so that the buyer doesn’t pay as much or the seller maintains the asking price.

On the upside, Harlequin and Random House books can be discounted so I guess I’ll be buying far more of those books.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

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