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Self-publishing News: Bookshops Ask Publishers Not Just To Link To Amazon

Self-publishing News: Bookshops Ask Publishers Not Just to Link to Amazon

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at Independent Bookshops' call to publishers not  just to link to Amazon.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

The latest Self-publishing News podcast has just dropped. Howard and I have been talking about the way different governments have responded to the AI and copyright dilemma. We have also been talking about e-readers, and whether the new Sol virtual reality e-reader is some kind of over-engineered hellscape or a return to focusing on products that do one thing well.

Independent Bookstores Ask Publishers to Stop Linking to Amazon in Independent Bookshops Week

Indie bookstores don’t like Amazon isn’t new news. You will remember French booksellers banning titles from a major prize when they included one published by Amazon. Or when French lawmakers took on Amazon over free deliveries. Last week was Independent Bookshop Week in the UK. Booksellers addressed their concerns about Amazon in typically British fashion. They sent an open letter to publishers. And as Mark Williams points out in a typically deliciously acerbic piece, so as not to be too much of a nuisance, they waited till the end of the week to do so.

The cause of the complaint is publishers linking to Amazon during Independent Bookshop Week. That is a very small and specific complaint. But the feelings behind it go much deeper. Bookshops believe they provide something Amazon can’t. They are the trusted friend recommending something magical. They are the centre of a community. And while they believe they are not directly competing with Amazon because they offer something Amazon can’t, they resent the attention publishers give the behemoth. 

The letter makes an unsubstantiated (it may be true, but the letter offers no evidence, and while I have heard booksellers tell me anecdotes, they haven’t offered evidence either, making this very much stand on the same ground as publishers talking about libraries cannibalising sales) claim that for every book sold in a shop another will be discovered in the shop and bought on Amazon. Which means they need all the help they can get.

One of the great things about being an indie author, of course, is that we can choose where and how to link to our books. We can go exclusively through Amazon. We can “go wide.” Or we can even double down on platforms like Bookshop.org that direct people only to independent stores.

ALLi's Campaigns Manager, Melissa Addey, says: “Making our books accessible to however the reader would like to buy them is an important part of authors making a living and supporting indie bookshops is part of being an ethical author too. On my own website I like to add a little note under my platform links to say that the books can be ordered into any bookshop: it's surprising how many readers don't realise a bookshop will gladly do this for them. It's an easy way to support bookshops and help readers use them now and in the future.”

TikTok to Sell Its Own Products 

This leads me to a very interesting development on the subject of platforms turning themselves first to general commerce sites and then leveraging their size to prioritise their own brands. Amazon, of course, has its own brands now, not just within publishing, where its in-house imprints seem to appear in its bestseller lists with mysterious regularity.

TikTok recently opened a store to allow in-app purchases. Publishers have been at the forefront of the platform's efforts to become a commercial force. This isn't surprising. Over the past couple of years, BookTok has surged in popularity. Frankfurt Book Fair gave over a main stage to BookTok content creators last year. And BookTok is not only a go-to source of recommendations for avid readers. TikTok is also increasingly a site that gets people reading for the first time. So being able to click on an influencer's recommendations and purchase them without leaving the site is a valuable resource for publishers.

But now TikTok is starting to launch and sell its own branded goods within the app. They are not starting with books. But with such a big BookTok community, it is most definitely a space worth watching.

Amazon faces Further Legal Battles – This Time Over Prime

Recent weeks have seen Amazon face resurrected charges of ebook price fixing. This week it is Prime that falls under the spotlight. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has initiated a legal complaint against Amazon for its procedures. These include procedures for enrolling people into Amazon Prime, and for consumers wanting to cancel their subscription. The complaint alleges:

“Amazon used manipulative, coercive, or deceptive user-interface designs known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically-renewing Prime subscriptions.”

It also refers to the multiple screens users have to pass through in order to cancel subscriptions, a journey Amazon allegedly internally called The Iliad, in reference to Homer’s lengthy tome.

In the UK and EU there are strict laws against what is rather descriptively called “sludge,” the unsubscribe function of a service. It should, in principle, be as easy to unsubscribe as it is to subscribe. In theory this means “one click in, one click out” (my quotation marks). Those of us who run mailing lists will be familiar with how easy we are required to make it for people to unsubscribe, and how relatively hard to subscribe (especially where personal information like an email address is being handed over). As subscription services in general increase as a way of consuming content, expect more and more focus on the mechanics. And as services struggle with subscriptions, expect (and be vigilant for this happening) patterns to get darker in response.

Independent bookshops ask publishers to stop just linking to Amazon, and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40

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This Post Has One Comment
  1. Traditionally, publishers often include direct links to Amazon as the primary online retailer for purchasing books. While Amazon’s dominance in the online book market cannot be denied, some independent bookshops and advocacy groups argue that this practice further exacerbates the challenges faced by brick-and-mortar bookstores.

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