Monday, April 26, 2010

Help Amazon Sell Kindle Books and Earn $0!


Many Web sites, including this one, earn commissions when they refer customers to Amazon.com who end up purchasing items. Last week, I noticed that I earned a 0% referral fee for helping Amazon sell a Kindle book, netting the company about $9. I wrote to Amazon, and here's the response I got back:

Hello,

At this time, Kindle Books are excluded as Qualifying Products. While we don't pay advertising fees on Kindle Books, we continue to pay a 10% advertising fee on all qualifying Kindle reader sales and Kindle magazine and blog subscriptions referred to us.

We appreciate your understanding.
Kindle books are a loss leader (here's a good discussion from Newsweek). In other words, Amazon loses money on each Kindle book it sells in hopes of getting people to buy Kindles at a hefty markup. Maybe the economics of ebooks will change someday, but for now, it's understandable that Amazon doesn't want its partners to push sales of Kindle books to people who already own Kindles, hence the 0% referral fee.

However, Amazon partners can't control whether the customer will buy the Kindle or the print version. If 50% of the people you refer end up buying the Kindle version, then the nominal 4% referral fee you earn on book sales effectively becomes 2%. (This is ignoring some pricing differences and the fact that the existence of the Kindle increases overall demand for books, securing some sales that otherwise wouldn't have been made.) This decreases the expected returns to hawking Amazon's wares, which should in turn reduce the number of referrals for Amazon books, both print and Kindle versions.

UPDATE 5/4: Apparently Amazon has changed course.

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