There probably aren’t too many people around today who haven’t been struck, at least once, with the ‘how much on Amazon’ syndrome.
It’s been sad to watch the demise of so many great book shops in our local shopping centres and shopping strips. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not talking here about the big chain book shops like Borders, but about the small independent book shops. As exciting and inviting as some of them can be, it is apparent that when independent book shops try to ‘stand up’ to online shopping to the likes of Amazon, the writing on the wall is often plain to see.
I came across an interesting article just recently in The Huffington Post. Packed full of interesting facts, the article Independent Bookstores: How to compete with Amazon was not your run of the mill article about the David and Goliath struggle that we’ve often witnessed over the last couple of years. Written by Janaka Stucky, I discovered (after a little investigative online searching!) that the article was originally published as an essay under the title How to survive in the age of Amazon on the Poetry Foundation website. Describing himself in the article as “an author, a publisher, a consumer, and a former indie bookstore employee”, Stucky paints for us an interesting perspective of the reality of the struggle between author, publisher distributor and consumer and the colossus company Amazon. Valuable reading for all independent book shop owners!
Frightening as it may seem, Stucky highlights reality:
Amazon has a dynamic infrastructure with relatively low overhead that not only capitalizes on the latest technological developments but has begun driving them as well. Some market analysts speculate that Amazon sales will account for 50 percent of all book sales in the US by the end of 2012, which is stunning since book-selling has actually become the minority revenue stream for Amazon now that the company has branched out into a market for everything from video games to sex toys. Amazon has become a primary competitor not just to Barnes & Noble but also to Walmart, eBay, Apple’s iTunes, and even Netflix.”
It seems that the impetus for Stucky’s essay were two recent articles Amazon’s jungle logic published in the New York Times last December and an article in Slate, an online magazine published daily on the Web, also published in December Don’t support your local bookseller. Both of these articles highlighted the unsightly behaviour by Amazon who offered customers a five percent discount on purchases in exchange for them checking the cost of books in retail book shops by using the company’s price check app. Not very nice corporate behaviour really, is it?! No way to win friends and influence people!
What I really enjoyed about Stucky’s article is his advice to the owners of book shops.
But if what you want to do is promote a love for reading and the books you love to read, then you can begin transforming your store into a valuable resource for other people who share your passion.
In other words, he is advising book shop owners to do just what librarians and teacher librarians have always done in their public libraries and school libraries – sharing the joy of reading with their patrons through a range of events and programs that define the distinctive character of their book shop.
Don’t compete with Amazon. Beat them at their own game!
There’s no doubt about it, all of us – school libraries, public libraries and book shops – must work together to create the buzz and ignite in our patrons the passion of the joy of reading in this The National Year of Reading!
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