Flying Pig 1, Amazon 0

Josie Leavitt - February 20, 2014

We have been struggling for the past few years to win back a library account at one of the local senior living communities, Robin Bay. They had been doing their book buying from us from our very early days in the late 1990s through about 2006. We had noticed that the orders were getting smaller and smaller until they just stopped outright. I finally got the courage to ask the acquisitions person what was going on.
She was sheepish, but I assured her it was important for us to know why they left, so we could work hard to get them back. As the library budget tightened and the seniors’ ease with computers increased, they shifted most of their purchasing to Amazon. We were disheartened, to say the least. There was little we could in the face of the library getting upwards of 46% off the mostly bestsellers they were buying. Every year we talked about indies and why they’re good for communities and enrich lives. How we collect and pay sales tax, how more of the money spent in our store (.68 cents versus .32 cents) stays in our community. They were having none of it.
Every couple of months or so, we’d be giving them a booklist and asked to research prices. We’d diligently do the work and then not hear back. And after pricing the list on Amazon, we saw why. The discounts that they were offering were just absurdly low. Hardcovers that retail for $28 being sold for $12. I can’t get better prices from the publishers. So, we stopped fighting and went back to selling books to other people. And a strange thing happened.
We started doing more business with residents of Robin Bay than ever before. We delivered a lot to those who no longer drove. We welcome their van to our store twice a month with eager book buyers. Then several longtime customers moved into Robin Bay and suddenly we had a cheerleading section. And that’s all it took. Once people who really knew us and how much we cared not only about books but about them, we were given a chance to compete with Amazon on 38 books.
We got creamed by their discounts on about 25 books, came in better on seven, and were within in cents of each other on the remainder. All told Amazon was about $100 less than we could do. They chose us, because as Julie, the acquisitions librarian said, “It matters what happens in our town and we are all part of it. And this is a small price to pay for backing up what we say do: shop local.”
We are thankful for the order and will deliver it Friday when it all comes in.

8 thoughts on “Flying Pig 1, Amazon 0

  1. Pete

    Great story. Please note that the $.68 vs. $.32 is indie vs. chain. Indie vs. Amazon is more like $.68 to $.01. Only the UPS driver’s money recirculates in your local economy at most.

  2. Theresa M. Moore

    Kudos to you and your singular efforts to stay above water. By supporting your local economy, real readers are showing that they can see the forest for the trees. Amazon drives book prices down too far, so they have an unfair advantage over indie bookstores. But I suggest that you start looking around online for books which are sold directly by the authors, so that they can help you stock your store with more and varied titles. Mine are ready to be bought and are listed in Books In Print. All you have to do is look. Consider the indie authors in your selections because they want to be read, and they will keep you in mind when marketing their books. This mutual support will go far in preserving the neighborhood bookstore as a focal part of the community.

  3. James Frenkel

    How wonderfully refreshing to see. Good for you, Flying Pig, and for Robin Bay, too. So nice that local folks and a local store worked it out, despite’s predatory low pricing. One can only hope that more people will start to realize that doesn’t care one bit about their book-buying customers . . . just their buying paterns.


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