Amazon.com and my Indie Software Company

Now that a few negative articles about the Amazon App store are popping up up all over the web (Amazon App Store: Rotten To The Core, Game Developers Warned Away From Amazon Appstore), I thought it might be interesting to tell you my short story related to this:

I run a small company which creates a few small, but useful pieces of software, like irrFuscator, an Actionscript 3 obfuscator used also by some quite known developers. A few months ago, Amazon contacted me via email, asking me if I would be interested in selling my products on their site. I'm used to mails like that, but the email was written in a strange formatting (Verdana and Calirbi as fonts? Yellow text? Strange signature? really?) and I wasn't sure if such a big player like Amazon really would send out such mails. So I said, "sure, why not, I'm interested, send me the details". A mail came back from an @amazon.com domain, so obviously this wasn't some kind of scam, and contained the agreement details. The guy sitting there at amazon probably hasn't had much experience with writing mails, but who cares, as long as they would sell my software everything would be fine.

Reading through the agreement, I came across a few strange details. For example, they wanted to collect some 'ingestion fees', what appears to me some money I have to pay to them each time I do a software update. Strange, but ok, maybe I could live with this. Next, the agreement I was supposed to sign tells that I confirm that I am a company from the U.S. Asking back the amazon guy, telling him that we are based in Europe resulted in the answer "that's ok, just ignore that part, and sign it anyway". Yeah, sure. I'll sign an agreement knowingly lying. Of course.

But then I came across this: It appears that Amazon wants to be the one controlling the price of my product. As it seems, they would be able to simply define any price for the product, and change it at any time they want, without asking me about this. I asked back the guy from Amazon if this is true, and he confirmed. This is basically a big show stopper. Sure, maybe Amazon is used to do deals with book authors and publishers, which are used to be dictated the prices they get for their products, but this doesn't work for software developers. Especially not for indie software developers like me. The price is one of the most important thing for your software, and not having any control over it doesn't work. The internet is just a bunch of websites, and I'm not going to compete with my own products sold on another website on the web. Also, if your product is a quite high quality thing, and amazon decides to sell it for 99 cents intead of the usual 40 euro, people will start to view it as cheap. So I'm not going to let other people decide the price for my product, I'm sorry.

You probably realized that this article isn't exactly about the Amazon App Store, but from reading the articles developers are posting about their experiences, they seemed to have signed up to a very similar agreement for the Amazon App Store. From all this, beginning from the guy writing strange formatted emails, ending with the price settings for your products, it appears that Amazon doesn't have much experience selling software downloads, and is trying to use the same model they've been using to sell books - now to sell software. Which obviously doesn't work that nice. Developers seem to get alienated by that. But who knows, maybe they change, would be nice for them.

four comments, already:

Good call. I’m surprised how many people are agreeing to Amazon’s terms. Often the same people who are down on Apple for the way they do business.
Alan - 03 08 11 - 09:40

Interesting, didn’t know about Amazon App Store for now..
pablo - 03 08 11 - 10:25

I never even heard of their app store. Don’t think I would went to sell software via it unless they get a bit more serious.
Kemp - 03 08 11 - 20:02

I looked at their terms when they launched their Android store, and their Mac app store. As soon as I saw they can change the price to what they want, I concluded that I would never, ever use them.

Now, looking at the Mac app store they’ve created, it looks like such a cheap and crappy place I wouldn’t touch them even if they removed this clause now. I like Amazon as a customer, and I like their web services, but they just haven’t got a clue what they’re doing when it comes to app stores.
steve () (link) - 10 08 11 - 09:13


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