The Latest from Amazon

Josie Leavitt -- July 29th, 2013

Amazon has done it again. As Shelf Awareness pointed out this past Saturday, Amazon has pretty much decided to see if they can crush a little more spirit out of bricks and mortar stores by increasing the discounts offered on bestsellers to be upwards of 70%. But as the owner of an independent bookstore, I cannot help but feel ill will towards this company.

No one can compete with these discounts. This ridiculousness started because Overstock began an anti-Amazon campaign that it says “will last indefinitely… by slashing prices on bestsellers.”  While these savings are a boon to book buyers on a budget, it will have a horrible ripple-down effect for indies.  No indie I know can afford to sell a book at a 20-40% loss. There is just no way that math works. And honestly, how can it really work for them? For that matter, how can a company operate at a loss for so often and stay remain a major player in the industry?

I have no idea. I do know that last week in my Ingram shipment I received an invoice meant for the Amazon distribution center in Lexington, Ky.  This was a fascinating read. There was absolutely no discount information on the paper. None. I’m not sure how they receive books in Lexington, but at most stores the invoice total and what’s in your computer have to match. That’s pretty hard to without any information. The blank discount fields highlighted to me the difference between us and them.

I pay a certain amount for each book, usually getting about a 40-45% discount from the publishers. I sell the book for list price, or 20% off if they’re bestsellers. I can’t give more away. This is something customers don’t always understand. I can hear this week’s conversations at the register. “How much is Inferno?” “With the 20% off it’s $23.96 plus tax. So it comes to $25.39.” The customer will look sheepish. He shops at Amazon and knows it’s cheaper there. He might say, “You know, it’s $11.65 at Amazon and I don’t have to pay sales tax.”

There is nothing you can say in the face of that. Nothing.

Really, why would someone spend almost $14 more for the exact same book? And while savings this steep will not be found on the vast majority of books that Amazon sells, the perception will be that they do. Customers will wonder why my books are so expensive. Again, there is nothing I can do about that.

It will be a hard week at the brick and mortar stores.