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Amazon.com to Charge for Book Recommendations

Words don't come cheap at Amazon.com. The etailing giant Wednesday began charging book publishers to be included in their emailed book promotions.

Recommendations may be as high as $10,000 per title, according to the Wall Street Journal's online edition. Publishers may also have to make a commitment to buy advertising on the site.

Although she declined to comment on the exact figures, Kristin Schaefer, a spokesperson for Amazon.com, noted that Wedensday's announcement was simply an extension of the company's existing co-op package.

"Similar to all book sellers, we work with publishers who suggest titles they'd like to see featured," she explained. "If our editors feel that the book is worth promoting, we will move forward. By extending the program, we now allow publishers to have input as to what titles can be included in our emails.

"However, if our editors dismiss a publication as inappropriate, we will not include the book in our promotion. The selections as to what is featured has been and still is editorially driven. We are not compromising the quality of what we offer. However, by accepting co-op payments, we are able to keep costs lower for our customers."

Not all books reviewed in the emails will be charged a fee, according to the Journal report. Visitors to the Amazon site will be able to click on a link to find out which books had received recommendations without payment from their publishers.

The etailer has had a rough time of it lately, with disappointing stock market showings and massive layoffs.

The move to charge for recommendations is ill advised, noted Paul Ritter, director of online retail strategies at The Yankee Group.

"Amazon.com has achieved a critical mass of customers that other dot-com companies are struggling to come close to," Ritter said. "This strategy takes away from the objectivity that people expect from Amazon, If people suspect the company is pushing a book for financial gain, it tarnishes a service that, until now, had been enjoyed.

"The negative backlash from this move could far outweigh the gains in revenue it brings," he added. "The company has made significant efforts to put itself on track financially. There is a strong chance for success without adding this element to its recommendations."

Schaefer noted that Amazon.com's extension of the co-op program is comparable to end displays and special promotions that are set up in brick-and-mortar bookshops.