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Amazon backs off promo plan

The company says it will disclose when a publisher had paid for a featured spot on its Web site.

Amazon.com caved in today to public pressure over plans to feature books and authors in return for a fee paid by publishers.

The online bookseller said today that beginning March 1, it will disclose which title placements are paid for and which are not.

But the Seattle-based online bookseller continued to insist that it has not sold book recommendations in exchange for cooperative advertising dollars. "Only books selected by Amazon.com editors qualify for publisher-supported placement," the company said.

Amazon's practice of taking money from publishers to give certain books star treatment was revealed in a New York Times article published yesterday. Amazon customers and competitors voiced concern over the practice, which they said compromised company claims that its editors make decisions about book placement independent of how well a book sells or whether it is backed by a major publisher.

"We heard from our customers and from their communication it was clear we were being held to a higher standard than the rest of the industry," said Bill Curry, an Amazon spokesman. Amazon does not receive cooperative advertising money for its music and video sites, which also have their own editorial staffs.

Amazon has not decided yet how it will identify paid and unpaid features on its site.

The company also said that starting today it will give refunds for recommended books even if they have been read. "It doesn't matter how dog-eared or worn it is," said CEO Jeff Bezos in a statement. "Even if you ripped out the pages because you thought the book was so bad, you can still return the pieces to us for a full refund."

The previous policy was to only give refunds if a book was returned unread.