The letter is being emailed to publishers today, June 23 – one day before Independent Bookstore Week finishes, rendering it a rather hollow gesture.
Some eighty of the UK’s independent book stores have written to British publishers asking them not to link to Amazon during Independent Bookshop Week.
The letter, on twitter via Google docs, runs to three pages, most of which are the signatories. The core text in full:
This week (17th – 24th June 2023) is Independent Bookshop Week; a week to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK, highlighting the role that they play in their communities.
Booksellers are passionate about reading, and nothing brings us greater joy than recommending books, talking about books, and spreading joy through books. We work with our local communities, and contribute to the local economy and community. We are real people, offering real recommendations and conversation, as well as a browsing experience. We are not a computer algorithm.
We know we can’t compete with Amazon and nor do we want to; we know we can offer experiences that a computer can’t. But the reality is that for every copy of a book sold in our shop, someone else will look at it in our shop before buying it online. This means that in an indirect way, quantities of books sold online through Amazon would not have been discovered without a physical bookshop.
This Independent Bookshop Week, we are asking for fairness. This is the one week a year that we are asking you to celebrate Independent Bookshops. We are grateful for the support offered by publishers to help us promote and sell the books we love. Yet, some publishers continue to link to Amazon during Independent Bookshop Week. To the publishers who are making the effort to link to bookshops and platforms such as Bookshop.org – thank you. But some are not. Some are inconsistent across their divisions with some linking to Amazon, and others to Bookshop.org. So far this Independent Bookshop Week, two of the Big Five have linked to Amazon when promoting books. We value your support this week, but that support is weakened when you continue to link to corporations such as Amazon.
Bookshops bring readers and books together. We are uniquely placed to champion books. To then see publishers prioritise Amazon over us during Independent Bookshop Week feels like we are not seen as important or valued.
We will always champion books. We are asking you to champion us.
Going forward, will you pledge to link only to bookshops and Bookshop.org during Independent Bookshop Week? Will you Choose Bookshops?
The timing is important to note here. Per Bayley at The Bookseller, the letter is being emailed to publishers today, June 23, one day before Independent Bookstore Week finishes, rendering it a rather hollow gesture.
Some of the claims – for example that independent bookshops champion books, – go without saying. Other claims not so much.
…The reality is that for every copy of a book sold in our shop, someone else will look at it in our shop before buying it online. This means that in an indirect way, quantities of books sold online through Amazon would not have been discovered without a physical bookshop.
There are no conceivable statistics to support such an assertion. Sure, some booklovers will browse bookstores and compare prices on Amazon and buy on Amazon if there is a significant price difference and if they qualify for free shipping. But to suggest – nay, to clearly state – there is a one-to-one correlation between every book sold instore and a book sold on Amazon having been first discovered in that same store is clearly fanciful.
To be clear, bookstores – independent or chain – are one of the things I really miss in my self-imposed exile here in West Africa, along with decent coffee, decent food, readable newspapers and an occasional cloud in the sky. Long live bookstores!
But complaining to publishers on day six of a seven day campaign, in the full knowledge that for the other 51 weeks of the year those publishers will be full-on driving traffic to Amazon, seems like a seriously misguided use of energy and resources, that could better be spent explaining to the, ahem, 50% of shoppers in the stores who are supposedly buying from Amazon why they would be better off supporting their local store.