Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger became the first big name “casualty” of Amazon’s price guarantee contract clause this week when the author and his publisher Byliner.com were forced to pull the book from the Amazon Kindle store after Amazon pushed the price of his new book After Friday Night Lights to $0 following a promotional offer with Starbucks.
Starbucks chose the book as its “Pick of the Week” and that triggered the company to give away the book for free through Apple’s iBookstore using a redemption code. When Amazon’s automatic price check realized the book was being offered with no cost to Starbucks customers the Kindle store e-book pricing fell to zero.
Not wanting to lose money and mess up the Starbucks deal the book was pulled where it will remain offline until May 1 when the Starbucks redemption pricing will no longer exist.
The price check isn’t something new to Amazon which has instituted a “most favored nation” clause that ensures authors do not sell electronic copies of their books for lower prices on other bookstores such as Apple’s iBookstore.
The Amazon contract has made it difficult for authors to hold sales on other platforms, which in turn has allowed Amazon to levy its control over authors who are looking for the largest possible audience for their works, even in cases in which redemption codes are offered only to select buyers.
In the meantime the US Department of Justice is already going after Apple for the same type of iBookstore terms, if that case is successful Amazon could face a similar push to end the constrictive pricing practice.