Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Twist on #amazonfail: Indie Bookstores Take a Hit

Censorship. It's an ugly enough word to make anyone shudder, especially in relation to banning books (at least for us).

If you haven't yet heard of the #amazonfail movement you're either
1) in a chocolate-bunny-induced coma, or
2) don't own a computer.

Either one of those and you probably won't care about this post. However, there are many people that are up in arms about (what seems) Amazon's censorship on some books the company deems questionable.

To give some background, a few days ago authors and readers started to notice that some of their favorite books were no longer showing up on Amazon searches. In brief, the books had been deranked by Amazon (and books with no rankings don't show up on Amazon). The reason? Amazon categorized them to have "adult content" (a definition of which no one seems to be able to extract from Amazon). Some of the books had gay and lesbian content. Some were romance novels. Some were young adult books. The LA Times did a great article on this. Head on over for the full details.

Anyway, the word spread quickly online via Twitter and the #amazonfail movement was created. Now we're hearing a lot of grumblings about people boycotting Amazon.

The unlucky victims in this?
Independent bookstores who use Amazon as their vehicle to sell books - either via an Amazon webstore or individual listings on Amazon.

Why do we care?
We're one of them. Our website is run through Amazon as a Webstore and it's our main venue for selling books.

After initially building a site and then realizing that it was going to take time-consuming conversions to work with our POS software, we had to make a switch to an Amazon site. And here we are, an Amazon seller.

And now we're stuck in the crossfire.

You wouldn't know that our site is an Amazon store until you get to checkout, where you're asked to login to your Amazon account. Now we're being told that people aren't going to buy from Amazon, which ultimately means they aren't going to buy from us.

We understand how upset you are. We disagree with censorship, too. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with the content of these books. We aren't asking you to discard your views and disregard what Amazon is doing. What we do ask is that you reconsider your boycott when shopping with independent bookstores, like us, who run their site through Amazon out of budgetary necessity.

There are other ways to fight this (just Google #amazonfail and you'll find pages of ways or visit this blog - Warning: the blog contains explicit language). And just maybe these other ways won't sacrifice the unassuming independent bookstores for a decision over which they had no control.


  1. I would suggest that you are NOT an indie book seller. Although there are those that would think differently, I certainly do not see you as indie. Are you paying taxes on the books that you sell? Are you keeping the money that people spend in the local community? Do you support local non-profits, schools and more? Probably not. An indie shop is a bricks & mortar shop that is part of a community.


  2. Not sure if you really qualify as an Independent retailer if you're selling the bulk of your books through Amazon. "Independence" that your sales, decisions, etc. are made, well, independently. If a portion of each sale goes to the evil empire, you're beholden to that empire. Not really meaning to be a jerk here, but chaining your boat to another bigger boat means that you go where the big boat goes.

  3. I do question the "independent" aspect as well, although it is clear your spirit and intent is to be independent. I think Amazon follows unfair business practices. People that WANT to be independent should be able to succeed without Amazon (I know that's an ideal and not always a reality).

  4. Hi Joe and Rob:
    Thanks for taking the time to comment on our blog.

    We were a brick and mortar bookstore that just closed our doors and went to online only (not only for economic but also family personal reasons).

    We still consider ourselves as an "indie" bookstore - even though we are online only now. If you visit our website, you'll see that we are a little different from most online stores. We're converting our online site to a online community (not just a store)-supporting many of the ideas that we started in our physical store and now continue online. We support and market independent authors (with no strings attached). We spotlight authors. We support Books for Soldiers. We provide parent and teacher resources (just as a few examples). We support local and community efforts (we have over 500 subscribers in our local newsletter customers/authors that can attest to this). We'd be happy to list our community involvement and accomplishments here, but we don't want to bore you (if you want to know, just ask us, we'd be happy to tell you!) :o) And, yes, we pay taxes.

    We hope this answers some of your questions.

  5. Yes, but sadly a portion of your profits goes to a corporation that would eat up the indies and spit them out if it could. Sorry - if you use Amazon to make your sales, you're not an indie.

  6. I stand my my comments. You are not even close to being indie...


  7. Hi Lady:
    LOL! That was nice imagery. :o)

    We understand what you are saying. However, there are many independent (physical, brick-n-mortar) bookstores that are Amazon affiliates and/or Webstore sellers and a portion of their profits go to Amazon, too. We have spoken to many who say that this is the bulk of their sales right now (because in-store sales are down for many indies). It seems to be the norm more and more for brick-n-mortar stores to be Amazon affiliates/Webstore sellers, too.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. We enjoy the feedback.

  8. Hi Rob,
    We can respect your difference of opinion. :o)

    Thanks again for taking the time to discuss this interesting issue.