This week I’ve been rattling around some thoughts about the latest vilification of Amazon. I know I’ve gone on a little about the Amazon/Hatchette in past posts, but lately I’ve been pondering the more generic hatred of Amazon that has sprung up since the Hatchette issue.
First let me say I’m not an entire supporter of Amazon. Their KDP Select program (and now the new Kindle Unlimited subscription) is a complete monopoly that indie authors should be very wary of, if not running from like a tabby from a Hoover. All indie authors should use KDP to publish their e-books on Amazon, but need to read every millimeter of fine print before jumping into the Select or Unlimited programs.
That said, folks need to stop acting like Amazon is the giant come to snatch away their children and stomp down their crops. Yes, Amazon has some good prices on many items and a great selection making it a handy place to shop. But Amazon is not the one driving bookstores out of business like so many bookstore owners claim.
Who’s driving bookstores out of business? Customers. Not Amazon. Customers. Okay, increasing rents, shipping and utility prices are also to blame, but if bookstore customers are leaning toward Amazon, bookstore owners need to figure out why and address the problem. Because trust me, Amazon is not an easy place to shop (unless looking for a very specific item) and the prices on books aren’t that spectacular.
I personally only shop for books on Amazon if I’m looking for something VERY specific. Other than that, you’ll find me in a bookstore where I can browse, where I can take in that yummy bookstore smell (seriously, they need to bottle that), where I can usually find a bargain to rival those supposedly low Amazon prices. Bookstores need to promote all of those things that simply can’t be had on Amazon.
I’m also lucky. I live in Portland, Oregon, where you can’t spit a mouthful of microbrew without hitting a bookstore. Other people are not so lucky. If Mable is living in the middle of Nebraska and the nearest bookstore is 80 miles away, she’s probably not going to make the 160-mile drive to pick up a book. She’s going to shop online. For some people Amazon is the only option to satisfy their bookish desires. Does that make Amazon evil? No, that makes them a literary lifeline.
And don’t forget…many “independent” bookstores sell books on Amazon as third party sellers. For all their claim that Amazon is a horrible entity, these bookstores don’t seem to mind jumping onto Amazon’s shelf space. Personally, I think it’s a smart move. In addition to having their own website (a must have for any modern business that wants to survive), bookstores and booksellers should definitely make use of Amazon’s exposure.
Which brings me to another point: Indie authors complaining that Amazon takes 30% of their book sale profits. I saw this complaint on Facebook this week and rolled my eyes. Do you know what a retail store would charge to carry your book on its shelves? Forty percent. Would an indie author whine if a physical bookstore wanted to stock their book? I’m guessing not.
That 30% gets you a nice slot on one of the biggest online retailers in the western world. To me, that is completely worth it. If an indie author expects to get free shelf space anywhere – online or otherwise – he needs to take a reality check on the world of book selling. Until you become uber-famous and can drive enough shopping traffic to your website to do all your sales through your website, you need your books on as many shelves as possible.
So, c’mon folks. Stop bemoaning Amazon. They are useful, they do help authors and booksellers get exposure and they are not the devil incarnate. Now, go inhale the scent of your nearest bookstore!
I’m sure there’s an opinion or two about this out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to comment.