6 November 13 | Chad W. Post

So, this morning, Amazon announced something called Amazon Source, a program to sell Kindles through participating independent booksellers. Yes, seriously. No, really, this isn’t one of my weird jokes.

We created Amazon Source to empower independent bookstores and other small retailers to sell Kindle e-readers and tablets in their stores. We crafted two unique programs with two different kinds of stores in mind, but retailers in select states can choose whichever program they prefer. Through the Amazon Source portal you can order inventory at wholesale prices, communicate with our account management team, and download professionally-designed marketing and merchandising assets to help drive your sales.

Not sure whether e-readers or tablets would be interesting for your customers? You can find out by participating in a completely worry-free trial. The first order you place through Amazon Source can be returned within six months. If you decide that e-readers and tablets aren’t the right fit for your store, we’ll buy back any tablet, e-reader or accessory that was on your first order, no questions asked.

OK, first off, I think most bookstores are going to see this as a huge slap to the face. We can help make money—and more market share—for the company that’s destroying our margins and making our lives that much more stressful??? Fuck. And. No. So, it’s unlikely that this will ever work.

But, at the same time, it’s not too dissimilar from the program whereby indie sell Kobo devices? But replacing Kobo with a device that dominates the markets?

Is there any benefit here? Well, this is Amazon’s claim:

We designed this program with bookstores in mind. The Bookseller Program offers a discount on the price of Kindle tablets and e-readers, plus the opportunity to make a commission on every book your customers purchase from their device, anywhere, anytime. With the Bookseller Program, you get a 10% commission every time one of your customers buys an e-book from a Kindle tablet or e-reader that they purchase at your store. This program allows you to give your customers a choice between digital and physical books, offer them access to a wide selection of e-books, and profit from every e-book they buy on their new device, from your store or on the go.

Buy Kindle devices at a 6% discount from the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price.

Buy Kindle accessories at a 35% discount from the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price.

Earn a 10% commission on the price of every e-book purchased from customers’ Kindle devices.

(I believe the 10% commission only lasts for the 2 years following the purchase of the Kindle.)

It’s not even worth parsing this, but 6% of the MSRP for Kindle devices? First off, which Kindle is this—the one with ads for Amazon products, or the one free of ads? And what’s to prevent Amazon from selling you, the bookseller, a Kindle for $100 then dropping the price on Amazon.com to $95? Even if a store gets 6% on the sale of these devices, THEY’LL STILL BE MAKING NEXT TO NO MONEY.

(Again, not worth going into, but there is a second program that doesn’t include the 10% commission, but sells the devices to booksellers at a 9% discount.)

From a reader perspective, does this make sense? I suppose so, sort of. If I could tie my Kindle to Talking Leaves, and give them $.80 for my purchase of Diary of a Wimpy Kid 8 (or whatever it was my daughter bought last night), a tiny chunk of the huge black mass of guilt and self-loathing that is my soul would fall away.

But $.80??? That’s not really going to help Talking Leaves. Especially if they would’ve made almost $7 if I had bought the physical book from them.

Sure, booksellers are aware that more and more people are reading ebooks and that they’re not getting any part of this market, and some of them wish they could capture a part of it . . . but this isn’t the solution.

It’s a fucking genius move from Amazon . . . if stores were to go along with it. In that case, Amazon gets more Kindles out into the world, customers feel slightly more encouraged to buy ebooks from Amazon, thus moving some of their spending money from the local indie bookstore (because really, wouldn’t you just rather buy something from home rather than drive all the way out to the store, which may not have the book, but will definitely be less comfortable than one’s couch . . .), to Amazon.

I can’t wait to read Dustin’s take on this over at Moby Lives/Melville House, but I’m just going to stop here, since I don’t think this is a program that booksellers will get behind, and will be a foggy memory a couple years from now.

It does dovetail nicely into what I was planning on talking to my students about in our “Intro to Publishing” class today. Namely, indie bookstores, the long tail, ebooks, and how Amazon can continue expanding and generating more revenue ($75 billion last year!).


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