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Amazon hears from hometown critics

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“We found that the company is a virtual no-show in the civic life of Seattle, contributing to nonprofits and charities a tiny fraction of what other big corporations give. In the political world, the company's hardball efforts to fend off collecting sales taxes – a key advantage over brick-and-mortar stores – has ignited a backlash in several states. In the publishing world, smaller companies have begun to publicly criticize Amazon's bullying tactics. And in some of its warehouses around the country, Amazon is drawing fire for harsh conditions endured by workers.”

One story in the series, entitled “Amazon.com trying to wring deep discounts from publishers,” outlines the company’s efforts to bully publishers into selling books at drastically low rates. In one example, Amazon sent publisher McFarland & Co. an email saying it would buy its books at a 45 percent discount, “roughly double its current price break.” Although Amazon represented nearly 70 percent of McFarland’s retail sales (and 15 percent of its overall business), the publisher held its ground. 

In another example, Amazon demanded a similar discount from Berkshire Publishing Group. That company also declined the demand and Amazon stopped ordering from it.

Of course, the Seattle Times has acknowledged that many industry players have a bone to pick with Amazon and that’s why many are stepping forward to speak out against it.

“Although publishers rarely criticize companies they do business with, some say they're speaking out against Amazon partly because they're offended by its tactics,” writes the Times’s Amy Martinez. “They describe Amazon's demands – made in email, with no personal-contact information provided – as overly aggressive and leaving almost no room for discussion.” 

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