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Indie Bookstores BlackBalling Authors With Amazon Links

My eyebrows raised a bit when I read this article on Shelf Awareness this morning. On Tuesdays, Shelf Awareness shared the policy of Rainy Day Book’s, an independent bookstore in Kansas, to refuse to stage signings and readings for authors whose websites and emails have a book purchase link to Amazon but not to Booksense.

Shelf Awareness then followed up with emails from a few Booksense members. One bookstore owner said it was Booksense’s way of competing with Amazon because their brand isn’t strong enough.

We independent booksellers understand that Amazon controls the Web. People click, money (some) rolls in. BookSense doesn’t have a brand strong enough to compete.

But authors and publishers will likewise have to understand that we don’t like this situation, and will push back in any way that we have available to us. That includes not scheduling events with authors and publishers who are actively trying to drive business to our competition.

Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, N.H.

Joe Foster, ordering manager at Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, Colo., argues that it is a “moral” for customers to buy locally and that authors should not “alienate a broad sweep of its customer base in the name of simple lazy expedience” by linking solely to Amazon.

Kerry Slattery, general manager, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif. wants authors to give readers a choice of where to buy books.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

4 Comments

  1. Francois
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 12:21:25

    Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! Is there any way this won’t backfire on them? Plus, what an upleasant way to conduct business.

  2. Carrie Lofty
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 14:50:50

    If a book catches my eye and I want to learn more, I can either visit the author’s website (which can be hit-or-miss on poorly updated sites) or I can go straight to B&N or Amazon where I know the info will be there. Amazon is a shorthand for all the information you’d want to know about the book: ISBN, cover, blurb, reviews, excerpts, and even links to author info. One-stop shopping–not only for the book iteself but for information about it.

    Where do I actually buy? If it’s for someone out of state, I’ll buy through Amazon. If it’s for me, I try to shop locally. BUT not every indie bookstore is exactly keen on promoting romance. If you notice that Booksense “picks” section contains only one for-certain romance. The support between indie bookstores and romance is not necessarily reciprocal, and it seems like poor business sense for them to alienate an entire group of readers AND now their authors.

  3. Jenyfer Matthews
    Nov 10, 2007 @ 04:57:50

    Doesn’t sound like their strategy is going to do anything to give Amazon competition. They are pushing away authors and giving up their edge – personal interaction with customers.

  4. Michael Herrmann
    Mar 14, 2008 @ 18:31:05

    Well, this is what happens when you Google your store’s name! I think your commenters are misunderstanding the intent of the Shelf Awareness piece. First, no one is “blackballing” anyone. That was my opinion. There are thousands of indie stores out there, and we don’t do much of anything in any kind of organized fashion.

    True, we independent bookstores are not satisfied with Booksense’s penetration of the online market nor with its brand compared to Amazon’s. But we are not Booksense, which is an ABA program. We are each independent. The point of the article was that we independents want to discourage authors from actively steering business to our competition. That should not be so hard to understand. Amazon is stealing it from us, and we are working to steal it back. :)

    Incidentally, it certainly is an ethical choice, where you choose to buy books and other items. Have you not heard of “shop local” movements? It isn’t just your food. Buying local keeps more money in the community–about 3 times as much, according to most studies. And here’s something Amazon won’t do for anyone–collect sales taxes to support local schools, donate gift certificates to your daughter’s dance troupe, host fundraisers for your PTO, and, yes, have author events, so people can meet the writers they admire. But I will be doggoned if I will spend money to throw a party for someone who is taking bread off my table.

    Now do you get it?

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