Amazon upended the book industry more than two decades ago by bringing sales onto the web. Now, during the heart of the holiday shopping season, the company is wreaking havoc on used booksellers who have come to rely on Amazon for customers.
In the past two weeks, Amazon has suspended at least 20 used book merchants for allegedly selling one or more counterfeit textbooks. They all received the same generic email from Amazon informing them that their account had been "temporarily deactivated" and reminding them that "the sale of counterfeit products on Amazon is strictly prohibited."
Booksellers are among the millions of Amazon's third-party sellers, a segment that's now responsible for over half of the company's e-commerce volume. The fees Amazon charges those sellers for shipping, fulfillment and other services accounted for over $10 billion of revenue in the third quarter, or 18 percent of Amazon's total sales.
The crackdown on textbook sellers stands out at a time when Amazon is dramatically stepping up its broader anti-counterfeiting efforts, suspending third-party sellers across all its popular categories. Unlike most suspensions, which tend to occur after complaints from consumers or from brand owners who are monitoring the site for counterfeits, these booksellers got caught up a coordinated sting operation run by Amazon.