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Old 11-02-2020, 03:10 PM   #1
Quoth
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Indies in USA Unite?

https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...o-rival-amazon
Quote:
Bookshop.org, which launched in the US earlier this year, has accelerated UK plans and goes online this week in partnership with more than 130 shops

Quote:
Philip Gwyn Jones, publisher at Picador, described Bookshop as “a positively revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling in the UK, and in the evolution of the relationship between writers and readers”.
Well, it would be nice if it succeeds and doesn't get bought by Amazon.
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Old 11-02-2020, 03:27 PM   #2
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https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...o-rival-amazon


Well, it would be nice if it succeeds and doesn't get bought by Amazon.

The StoryGraph
actively promotes bookshop.org with purchase links under books shown there, I'd use it if it were available in my region.
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Old 11-02-2020, 07:04 PM   #3
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Some would beg to disagree:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/rathe...YONUgZsQ%3D%3D

Quote:

Whilst the arrival of Bookshop.org appears to offer independent booksellers an answer to what has been a very difficult question - how do I compete with Amazon? – with an affiliate model which seems painless and hassle free, from a well-funded and slick organisation, the excitement about its proposition concerns me. I do not think that Bookshop.org is the answer. I understand the attraction, especially at these turbulent times, but I do not think it is good for customers and it is not especially good for the industry. Its launch also comes at a time when the benefits of burgeoning direct communication with customers could flower into a real answer to that question.

Enders Analysis have estimating that there were four years of e-commerce acceleration within the first three months of lockdown. People are not going back to the high street any time soon, and when they do their buying habits will inevitably include a heavier mix of ecommerce. Booksellers, like a lot of businesses, have shown a tremendous amount of imagination and creativity over the last few, very difficult, months.
Quote:

My concerns about Bookshop.org – who I am sure are very well intentioned - is that they remove the agency and personality which exists within bookselling at the moment. Suddenly every service is the same. Bookshops can offer more than just a booklist! Of course that is important, but the extra personal and creative touches, the limited signed editions and the knowledge of what people are buying on and offline combined is the opportunity this moment in time presents.

By all means use any route to market which works for your business, but also keep close the experience and contact which will ultimately help you grow, as this is what differentiates you from Amazon. There are many straightforward tools for local advertising – for example using Google local to list the books you have in stock and create offers to drive them in to your shop today. Consumers are keen to support local businesses even more so than they were last year, give them the opportunity to do so.
More at the source.

I looked and moved on.
Those prices aren't for me.

Others?
(shrug)
To each their own.
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Old 11-02-2020, 08:24 PM   #4
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bookshop.org is yet another retailer who eschews e-ink readers altogether, except perhaps those running Android, and basically wants customers to read only on their Android or IOS apps or on a computer. This alone disqualifies them from my consideration, though I do accept that I am in a minority. But I see no advantage they offer to those readers using tablets, computers etc.

The real problem I see for this and similar ventures is the question of why. Why would a reader want to use a platform like this? I recall seeing an article on a similar venture some time ago, which suggested there was finally an alternative for Amazon customers. What the article left out was why anyone would rationally leave Amazon for such an untried, overpriced, limited and restricted ecosystem. A look at the marketing material for that particular venture was quite revealing, as it focused entirely on benefits to publishers to the exclusion of readers, including not only robust DRM but the availability of extensive statistics.

Platforms like this are imho doomed. They have two groups of customers with very different and often conflicting interests. One set of customers is of course the often dying book stores to whom they seek to offer an online platform, and on whom they mainly focus. The other is the retail customers who they seek to sell their books to. Yet the experience they offer to the reader has nothing to recommend it as against not only Amazon but Kobo, Baen, Smashwords etc.

As a reader, why would anyone use bookshop.org?
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Old 11-02-2020, 09:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darryl View Post
bookshop.org is yet another retailer who eschews e-ink readers altogether, except perhaps those running Android, and basically wants customers to read only on their Android or IOS apps or on a computer. This alone disqualifies them from my consideration, though I do accept that I am in a minority. But I see no advantage they offer to those readers using tablets, computers etc.
There is no advantage for those who want ebooks. Their primary business is hardback and paperback. The ebooks and audio books are provided via third party, and a large number of the books they have simply aren't available in e-book format. I'm sure some people will be fine dealing with yet another app if they really want to support their local bookstores this way, but I suspect that their sales of ebooks are minimal compared to physical books.

As to why a reader would want to use a platform like this:

Quote:
If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on our map and they’ll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don’t use Bookshop).
I see the appeal for those with local bookstores participating that they want to support. But again, if they already have a favorite local, chances are, they're buying paper anyway.
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Old 11-02-2020, 09:40 PM   #6
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IMHO, I find the site to be a rather sloppy mess. It's not all that easy to navigate.
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Old 11-03-2020, 07:17 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by darryl View Post

As a reader, why would anyone use bookshop.org?
Because they're *not* Amazon, of course.

The real problem is they talk about taking business from Amazon but in reality they don't. They can't. Their sales come from non-Amazon customers. And non-Kobo, non-B&N (which is cheaper and, hard to believe, has a better website with a deeper catalog), non-Apple, etc. And their message is aimed at non-chain bookstore shoppers. Those are primarily locally-focused pbook shoppers.

On top of that, they only carry Indies by accident, if at all. Whatever you might think of Indie books, they make up a significant portion of the market.

Add it all up and they are targeting a slice of a small niche.

As for their success or failure, a lot will depend on how realistic their expectations might be. Indie stores collectively add up to 5% and most of their business, such as is, is local and unlikely to want to give up their traditional stroll through the aisles. Essentially tbey're aiming at B&M shoppers willing to give up what keeps them shopping B&M, for no economic benefit.

That doesn't strike me as a big portion of the Indie store's 5%.

Of course, that calculus can change if B&N collapses but that is, so far, only possible and not yet likely, much less assured.

My own expectation is B&N will outlive them just as it outlived the ABA's last attempt to float an online referral website. Bookselling is a legacy, non-growth business. Any newcomer *has* to take business from existing players and their profile isn't that of a true Amazon competitor, whatever their posturing for the media.

Any true challenger to Amazon will have to appeal to *consumers* not big publishers and not existing, squeezed booksellers. Because the overwhelming majority of book buyers vote their wallets and not their Anti-Amazon feelings. And those that do already have better choices.

Last edited by fjtorres; 11-03-2020 at 07:28 AM.
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Old 11-03-2020, 08:47 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by darryl View Post
bookshop.org is yet another retailer who eschews e-ink readers altogether, except perhaps those running Android, and basically wants customers to read only on their Android or IOS apps or on a computer. This alone disqualifies them from my consideration, though I do accept that I am in a minority. But I see no advantage they offer to those readers using tablets, computers etc.

The real problem I see for this and similar ventures is the question of why. Why would a reader want to use a platform like this? I recall seeing an article on a similar venture some time ago, which suggested there was finally an alternative for Amazon customers. What the article left out was why anyone would rationally leave Amazon for such an untried, overpriced, limited and restricted ecosystem. A look at the marketing material for that particular venture was quite revealing, as it focused entirely on benefits to publishers to the exclusion of readers, including not only robust DRM but the availability of extensive statistics.

Platforms like this are imho doomed. They have two groups of customers with very different and often conflicting interests. One set of customers is of course the often dying book stores to whom they seek to offer an online platform, and on whom they mainly focus. The other is the retail customers who they seek to sell their books to. Yet the experience they offer to the reader has nothing to recommend it as against not only Amazon but Kobo, Baen, Smashwords etc.

As a reader, why would anyone use bookshop.org?
Why is the big question. Any book seller, especially an ebook seller, needs to give customers a reason to buy from them. Cheaper prices, improved discoverability, no DRM, something. When Amazon started up their music store to compete with Apple's iTunes store, Amazon offered no DRM. No DRM is likely to be the one thing that would allow someone to compete with Amazon. A better book buying experience is another. Give customers all the goodies that Amazon promised, but failed to deliver, i.e. better notification when favored authors have a new book out, better recommendations. OF course, first and foremost, they will have to have a selection of books that matches Amazon's.
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Old 11-03-2020, 09:31 AM   #9
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OF course, first and foremost, they will have to have a selection of books that matches Amazon's.
The ability to download in the format of your choice.

No geo-restrictions (big sore point for me) when it's obvious there is no rights holder in your territory. There is nothing more annoying to find the e-book title you want is only available as a p-book in your territory, and the author has never been published in your territory.
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Old 11-03-2020, 12:55 PM   #10
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The ability to download in the format of your choice.

No geo-restrictions (big sore point for me) when it's obvious there is no rights holder in your territory. There is nothing more annoying to find the e-book title you want is only available as a p-book in your territory, and the author has never been published in your territory.
Those are all good features but *none* are under retailer control.
When Amazon music launched DRM-free it was because the mosic studios were tired of Apple's "one price for every song" policy andare tbey wanted variable pricing; higher for big hits, lower for album tracks.

Amazon helped them get it.

In pbooks, though, publishers aren't helping.
Not that there is much help to give; their overhead is enormous and margins low. They pretty much cornered themselves. (Long story there; short version, they helped Amazon grow from nothing to something and by the time they noticed, Amazon was too valuable to ignore.)

Pbook pricing and catalog size are the only things booksellers *can* (somewhat) control, subject to publisher/distributor volume discounts and book availability. The latter is improving with POD but the former seems to be cast in concrete.

And as long an pbook discounts are tied to order volume, independent book sellers will never be able to match the big boys who, in addition to getting tge books cheaper, get the books direct, instead of via Ingram (who need their own profit) and (Amazon at least) are more efficient.

B&M book retailing is a lousy business for anybody smaller than a regional chain like BAM or Half-Price. Even "destination stores" like Powells and THE STRAND are in deep trouble.
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Old 11-03-2020, 07:40 PM   #11
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It is a good idea to cast a skeptical eye at mainstream media hype over the latest great "Amazon killer" hope. So far, most last as much as QUIBI, over in video. (As in, not very long.)

As exhibit (A), here's the latest from New York's landmark, THE STRAND:

https://slate.com/culture/2020/10/st...ers-covid.html

Quote:

On Friday, New York City’s legendary Strand bookstore announced it was in trouble. With revenue down 70 percent because of the pandemic, owner Nancy Bass Wyden warned in a post on social media, the “loans and cash reserves that have kept us afloat these past months are depleted,” and the 93-year-old landmark is fighting for its survival.

Just as so many businesses and institutions have since March, Bass Wyden turned to her loyal customers for help, asking them to spend their money and spread the word, using the hashtag #SaveThe Strand. But alongside encomia from celebrities and Slate’s former editor in chief, another chorus arose, asking why Bass Wyden, a multimillionaire who is also the wife of a U.S. senator, was passing the hat rather than raiding her own piggy bank. As an article in the Baffler laid out in detail last month, the store received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of between $1 million and 2 million in April with the purpose of protecting the 212 jobs spread across its three locations, including the 188 workers Bass Wyden laid off in late March. Ultimately fewer than two dozen union jobs were restored, and Bass Wyden put her personal fortune to work purchasing stock in Amazon, a mortal enemy of brick-and-mortar booksellers she described as a necessary step toward keeping the Strand afloat.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/...-plea-for-help

Quote:

“We’ve survived just about everything for 93 years,” proprietor Nancy Bass-Wyden said in a statement, of the store her grandfather founded in 1927. “The Great Depression, two world wars, big box bookstores, ebooks and online behemoths. We are the last of the 48 bookstores still standing from 4th Avenue’s famous Book Row.

“Because of the impact of Covid-19, we cannot survive the huge decline in foot traffic, a near-complete loss of tourism and zero in-store events.”

Bass-Wyden said revenue was down nearly 70% from 2019. Though a government loan and cash reserves saw the store through the first eight months of the pandemic, she said, “we are now at a turning point where our business is unsustainable”.

Earlier this year, thanks to disclosures necessitated by her marriage to Ron Wyden, a Democratic senator from Oregon, Bass-Wyden was revealed to have spent between $115,000 and $250,000 on purchasing stock in Amazon, the “online behemoth” that has done most to damage independent bookstores.

Bass-Wyden said she made the purchase to support the Strand.

“It was necessary for me to diversify my personal portfolio and invest in stocks that are performing,” she said then. “I have to make sure that I have the resources to keep the Strand going.
This is NEW YORK, the center of the anti-Amazon movement, willing to give away 25,000 jobs than see Amazon make a buck. And they won't support their "landmark" bookstore. Even though it has its own good online presence.

Quote:

NYC Strand Bookstore SOS from Millionaire Owner Not Getting Sympathy After She Bought a Lot of Amazon Stock

Nancy Bass Wyden, owner of the Strand Bookstore in the East Village, sent out an SOS this afternoon. The Strand like all businesses, is in trouble. She says revenue is down 70% and that the business–after receiving PPP loans– is “unsustainable.”

Bass is the wife Oregan Senator Ron Wyden, who I told you months ago looks like a crusading liberal on the outside but has his own agendas.

Bass does, too. Her “bat signal” this afternoon was met with a lot of skepticism. That’s because she’s been buying hundreds of thousands of dollars in Amazon stock while complaining that Amazon is destroying the independent book selling business.

The rationale? Amazon is a good buy, and the money she makes from the stock helps her keep The Strand running.
.
.
.
.
If you don’t have much sympathy for Bass Wyden, it’s understandable. I don’t either. But New York it as a crossroads. Either we support her, or we stand to lose The Strand. It sounds from all her mishegos that she wouldn’t mind shutting down and spending her days watching tumbleweeds in Oregon. So we’ve got no choice.

The Strand has a very good online presence, and ordering books from them is as easy as ordering from Amazon. So why not just do it? I’m going to go over there tomorrow and buy some books in person. But just replace Amazon with them on your phone or computer. Saving the Strand is more important than taking it out on Bass Wyden. She has us over a barrel.
They're not alone.


Over on the west coast, Exhibit (B) is Powells, which has done most everything anybody in their business could--they're nationally known, a destination store, have done online for a couple decades, have supported ebooks since the PDA era, and do big business in used books. They've even taken advantage of Amazon merchant services.

Yet they're in trouble and have been since at least 2008.

From December 2008:

https://www.mhpbooks.com/powells-in-trouble/

Quote:

One of the country’s most prominent indie bookstores, which is also perhaps the only online retailer even slightly competitive with Amazon.com, is in trouble. A brief AP wire story says “Powell’s Books is asking employees to scale back their hours or take sabbaticals to cope with disappointing sales.” The report adds that “like many other retailers, it is seeing the impact of the recession on sales.” Chief of operations Ann Smith “declined to discuss the possibility of layoffs.”
From Feb 2011:

https://www.oregonlive.com/business/...s_on_powe.html

Quote:

Ryan Van Winkle, a union representative for Powell's Books employees, said today's e-mail informing staff of a 31-position layoff left the Burnside store feeling like a morgue.

The layoffs, announced publicly by Powell's around 4 this afternoon, represent more than 7 percent of the retailer's 400 employees -- not counting management and security guards.

Van Winkle, a union representative for ILWU Local 5, said the laid-off employees were predominately full-time and most were retail floor workers. About 25 percent, he said, worked in Powell's technical group that managed its website.
Quote:

In an e-mail memo sent to employees this morning, Powell's wrote "Sales for this fiscal year are down and we expect this trend will continue. The largest decreases have been in new book sales. We see this as a clear indication that we are losing sales to electronic books and reading devices."

In addition to the layoffs, the memo said that Powell's reduced benefits to non union-represented employees by initiating a pay freeze come July 1, suspending the company's 401(k) contributions effective Feb. 21st -- both for at least a year. Employees who are members of the union will receive complete pay and benefits, the company said.
And, most recently:

https://www.businessinsider.com/powe...-impact-2020-8

Quote:

Powell's, one of the largest and most iconic independent bookstores in the US, is ditching Amazon.

CEO Emily Powell wrote in a letter to customers on Wednesday that the bookstore would no longer be selling its wares on Amazon's marketplace. Powell's was founded in 1971 and takes up an entire city block in Portland, Oregon.

"For too long, we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon's business on our communities and the independent bookselling world. We understand that in many communities, Amazon — and big box retail chains — have become the only option," Powell wrote.

"And yet when it comes to our local community and the community of independent bookstores around the U.S., we must take a stand. The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive. We will not participate in undermining that vitality."
When all else fails, blame Amazon.
Even if it brings in a lot of business.
Just not enough.
(Plus they're in Portland.)

Quote:

Powell said that Amazon's marketplace was "hard to give up, sort of like smoking" given that the e-commerce giant has historically been a "big sales generator" for the bookstore.

Ultimately, though, selling on Amazon is cost-intensive for small businesses like Powell's, thanks to expenses related to advertising and providing ultra-speedy shipping.

"No one goes into the book business expecting an easy path, and each year typically brings its share of surprises and challenges. This year, of course, is like none other in memory," Powell wrote in her letter to customers.
It's a crappy business where making money requires BIG volume to overcome the high overhead. And getting worse by the day.

Even the best-run outfits were in trouble *before* the pandemic.

Paying a commision for what amounts to online referrals is going to help when Amazon wasn't with full hosting services?

It addresses none of the real problems: high costs and low margins.
Strikes me as clinging to straws.

Last edited by fjtorres; 11-03-2020 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 11-04-2020, 10:29 AM   #12
Quoth
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And publishers sell to supermarkets cheaper than to bookshops. At least here. But the supermarkets, like Tesco, only stock ALREADY successful titles and perhaps only the most popular less than 0.5% of the paper published authors.
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Old 11-04-2020, 08:00 PM   #13
cfrizz
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I took a quick glance at the article, and from what I gather it is simply another site in which to buy & keep paper books and their associated stores alive through one source. Since I only read ebooks I have no interest in this site.
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Old 11-04-2020, 08:56 PM   #14
fjtorres
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The hype goes on.
Now it's CNN telling why you should buy thay way:

https://edition.cnn.com/style/articl...zon/index.html

Quote:

New bookselling platform Bookshop is pitching itself as a way for independent bookstores to claw back sales from Amazon, which controls a lion's share of a market worth nearly $26 billion in the US alone.

Bookshop, launched by literary publisher Andy Hunter in January, claims to be a "socially conscious" alternative to Amazon. A spokesperson for the enterprise also said it has already earned more than $7.5 million for US indie bookshops and taken 2 percent of Amazon's share of the market in its first year.

The platform allows booksellers to create their own digital stores and receive the full profit margin (30 percent) from each sale through their page. 10 percent of sales through Bookshop also go towards a fund that is divided between indie bookshops whether or not they are part of the platform.

Chris Doeblin, the owner of three Book Culture locations in New York, said he saw his sales plummet by half as Amazon grew in popularity in the late 1990s. "We've barely held on. It's been horrible," Doeblin said in a telephone interview. "Independent bookshops do wonderful things for a community -- they populate the storefronts, they offer a place to go."

Doeblin said the civic value of local stores has never been more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced shops to close and emptied the streets. "People understand that more and value supporting us. They recognize the problem with having this incredible aggregation of sales through Amazon," the bookseller said.

The advent of Bookshop, then, offers small businesses a firmer foothold in virtual sales, helping them, in theory, stay afloat and compete with more established players. "We went from 1 to 5 percent of sales online to briefly it was 100 percent (at the height of the pandemic), and now it might be 20 percent online," said Doeblin of the upswing in online sales in 2020.
More at the source.

A couple thoughts:

- If their bookstore payout is 30% and their first year they delivered $7.5M then their first *year* gross sales was $25M. That is a bit less than the $30M+ Kindle Unlimited pays its *authors* in one *month*.

- Their characterization of the US book market at $26B is off. That includes *every* book sold in the US including museum guides, textbooks, auto repair manuals, etc. The trade book business Amazon *dominates* at 60% is $15B which puts Amazon's share at $9B (vs B&N at $2B.) 2% of Amazon's business is $180M a year. A bit away from $25M. (Even more so if Amazon truly commanded 60% of the full $26B publishing world, which would be $15.6B or more than the entire trade book business.)

- Indie bookstores run around 5% of the trade business ($15B) or about $750M a year. Also quite a bit from $25M. Their $7.5M earnings would be 1% of their business. (Assuming all the sales through BOOKSTORE were new and not their regulars avoiding a drive.)

Those numbers they're so proud of...?
They don't add up. Either somebody slipped a decimal or somebody is unaware of the business they're trying to slip into.

If anything, this piece makes me even less sanguine about their prospects.

(I'm pretty sure the "socially conscious" book buyer is already spoken for by Powells, The Strand, and a few others.)

Last edited by fjtorres; 11-05-2020 at 11:24 AM.
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Old 11-04-2020, 09:25 PM   #15
Fbone
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Bookshop keeps a running tally. Today it is $7,712,559.14 for indie stores.
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