Last week, major retailers Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Indigo released statements announcing their refusal to stock books published by Amazon in their stores. If you missed the story, you can read my earlier post here.
Today, IndieCommerce, a for-profit subsidiary of the American Booksellers Association, stood in solidarity with the three other retailers and began removing Amazon titles from its online database.
For those who don’t know (which included me 20 minutes ago), IndieCommerce is an e-commerce product available to all ABA member bookstores. It provides access to a database of more than five million titles and enables bookstores to sell books, e-books and merchandise online.
According to an article by Publisher’s Weekly, IndieCommerce director Matt Supko sent an email on Monday to independent bookstores that utilize the service, informing them, “While Amazon is seeking to distribute its print catalog through conventional means, it seems that they are simultaneously pursing a strategy of locking in ebook exclusives which other retailers are not allowed to sell. IndieCommerce believes that this is wrong.” The company has also implemented a new policy that “only publishers’ titles that are made available to retailers for sale in all available formats will be included in the IndieCommerce inventory database.”
Although as an organization, IndieBooks will not support Amazon, individual bookstores will be able to customize their Web sites to stock particular Amazon books. It will also be up to bookstores to decide if they want to carry Amazon titles in their brick-and-mortar stores in order to support local authors who choose to publish books with Amazon.
Seems fair to me. I’m interested in the idea of indie bookstores stocking Amazon-published books by local authors. I feel like supporting local writers is really important to the literary community, but whether it is more important than the boycott being complete and consistent is something individual bookstores will have to decide for themselves. It will be interesting to see where priorities lie.
Due to the reading I’ve been doing, I’m becoming increasingly uneasy about Amazon’s business practices, and I’m glad to see these retailers standing up against the largest bookseller in North America. Bookstores are closing at a crazy rate, due in part to Amazon’s domination of the market; how can indies compete with the 40% markdowns Amazon offers on many of its products? If independent bookstores want to stick around, they need to take action. It’s good to see these other retailers standing together and actually doing something to protect themselves.
On the other hand, boycotting Amazon titles seems like a strange move. By taking Amazon titles off of their shelves, these bookstores are taking away the option for concerned readers to buy these books from a retailer that isn’t Amazon. Say a reader makes a point of buying books from local bookstores; however, she really wants to read a book published by Amazon (Is that a real thing? Are they putting out good books?). If her local indie or Barnes & Noble is boycotting Amazon titles, she will have to go to Amazon to buy the book (or she could uphold the boycott and just not read the book, I suppose). So I feel like boycotting removes some opportunity to support local bookstores and could actually drive some readers to purchase from Amazon, who maybe wouldn’t otherwise? Does that make sense? Although, I suppose in the long run this huge boycott will hurt Amazon more than the loss of a few sales will hurt the retailers doing the boycotting.
Regardless, I’m looking forward to some type of response from Amazon.