Booksellers divided over Amazon’s e-book deal

Amazon is going to the people who dislike and fear it the most – independent bookstore owners – with an offer to work together.
By · 8 Nov 2013
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8 Nov 2013
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Amazon is going to the people who dislike and fear it the most – independent bookstore owners – with an offer to work together.

The retailer announced a program in which stores can sell its popular reading devices. The booksellers would get a small payment on each sale as well as a commission on all e-books that the reader buys during the next two years.

It was a great deal, booksellers said – for Amazon. The booksellers don’t necessarily agree.

‘‘I seriously doubt that many independent stores will take them up on it,’’ said Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of two stores in San Francisco.

Many booksellers are distrustful of Amazon, a company of boundless ambition and some aggressive ways. Some store owners dismissed the program as a Trojan horse aimed at further undermining their business.

Independents make up about 10 per cent of book sales, down from as much as 25 per cent before Amazon arrived on the scene.

‘‘We help Amazon grow its business and, in return, get a thin slice of the sale?’’ asked J.B.Dickey at Seattle Mystery Bookshop. ‘‘That’s not co-operation. That’s being complicit in your execution.’’

Jason Bailey, co-owner of another Washington state store, JJ Books in Bothell, had a more nuanced view. He has already signed up with the program and was featured on the Amazon site.

‘‘I have people coming in with their e-book readers to look at my books and then buy them online,’’ Mr Bailey said. ‘‘I may have helped sell the book, but I generated income for someone else. Now I have a chip in the game.’’

Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall said she didn’t have the total number of retailers in the program. ‘‘I can tell you anecdotally that the interest we’ve seen since announcing this has been very strong,’’ Ms Pearsall said.

Amazon has lost valuable real estate for its Kindle line of e-readers in recent years, as its brick-and-mortar competitors have dropped the devices from their stores. Last year, Target and Wal-Mart said they would no longer sell the Kindle.

The program, Amazon Source, lets stores either buy Kindles for a 6 per cent discount and receive 10 per cent of the revenue from e-books that customers purchase, or buy Kindles for a 9 per cent discount without any other payment. The cheapest Kindle is $US69 ($73). Most e-books retail at about $US12.
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