Note to Amazon: Flying under the radar was how the rebel alliance won
February 15, 2020 11:15 PM   Subscribe

Local Bookstores Have A New Weapon In The Fight With Amazon - Bookshop.org

Bookshop, a public benefit corporation (hence the .org domain), sublets it's office from a NYC leftist magazine, has a partnership with the American Booksellers Association and is one of a number of new efforts that support independent booksellers.
posted by gryftir (37 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
This isn't going to make even a small dent in Amazon's profits unless they can offer free or very cheap shipping.
The fact that their website has no mention of shipping charges or even which countries they will deliver to, makes me assume that all the discounts and referral kickbacks they offer are probably just skimmed out of the shipping charges.
I'm sure local bookshops would prefer it if you support them by just visiting the store.
posted by Lanark at 3:18 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


There is an initiative like this in the UK, Hive, but researching it now I noticed that to join as a seller you have to have a wholesale trade account with Gardners Books.

Surprise surprise these are owned by the same people. So the site that 'helps booksellers on the high street' is really just leveraging high street booksellers as a way for the wholesaler to direct sell to the public.
posted by benoliver999 at 3:29 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


10% going to the publication that triggered the sale by linking to Bookshop.org
Can Metafilter get in on this, for those of us who want to support Metafilter by linking to Amazon but simultaneously feel a little weird about it?
posted by clawsoon at 4:56 AM on February 16 [12 favorites]


But some people can't visit a store! If you live somewhere with no local bookstores, or you lack transport or are not very mobile, or you work during the hours stores are open. This is a great option for people who can't get into physical independent book stores, but don't want to support Amazon. I am glad to hear about this, and will use this even though the shipping is more expensive. Not everyone will, but this is still a great option.
posted by EllaEm at 4:59 AM on February 16 [21 favorites]


Lanark: The fact that their website has no mention of shipping charges or even which countries they will deliver to

I took a book to shipping and got this for both downtown Chicago and Ely, Nevada:
Standard (4-7 days) $3.50
Priority (2-3 days) $6.99
...with shipping only within the United States.
posted by clawsoon at 5:03 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]


The neoliberal two-step steamrolls everything. Thinking of the thread about Shi(p)t and wondering how long it is until equivalent travesties come to bookselling. Arguably they already did, starting with mega-discounting by chains and continuing through to utterly unsustainable pricing on Amazon, but surely things can still get a bit worse. I wish bookshop dot org all the best in stemming that tide.

My uncle was a bookseller for 40+ years in Seattle (Horizon Books, for any who might recall it), and I remember our conversations in the late '90s about Amazon and what it might or might not do to the book trade. Even then, various kinds of handwriting were on the wall, and the oldest bookstore west of the Mississippi closed soon thereafter. I hated seeing bookstores die, but I will never forget the absolute joy I felt as the 90s rolled on and I could get almost any book I wanted at the click of a button. That said, I've been really glad to see the indie resurgence in recent years. Many people are clearly willing to pay extra to support workers and the arts, whether buying at small bookstores or direct from publishers.
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:11 AM on February 16 [12 favorites]


I have been trying to buy less from Amazon recently so I wish this was available in Canada. I mostly only buy physical books for my niece and nephew these days because everyone else in the family are strictly ereaders so i wouldn't exactly be a money maker for them but it would still be nice.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:40 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I've no problem with Hive/Bookshop dot org being a front for one book distributor, as Amazon is so clearly an unmitigated evil. They depress wages, close shops, evade taxes, and yet keep getting away with it because... uh?
posted by The River Ivel at 5:54 AM on February 16


jacquilynne, have you checked out IndieBound? I took a stab at looking for bookstores in Vancouver and Toronto and found easily a dozen listed on both sides of the border. Plus, you can pick up at your favorite store.

No, it's not the same as Amazon, but honestly, I'd pay more to keep indie bookstores alive. Or use the awesome library system(s) around me.
posted by gc at 5:59 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


I don't live in the same place as my niece and nephew so I need an online solution, not something that requires me to physically ship books myself. Canada Post's retail shipping rates are insane.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:02 AM on February 16


I should have clarified that pickup is an option in addition to shipping. It does look like shipping is based on what the store pays for shipping, so YMMV.
posted by gc at 6:14 AM on February 16


Only the US? What a bummer.

I currently rely on Amazon and abebooks and would love to switch to another company even at a higher price.
posted by M. at 6:42 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I’ve been thinking about whether it might be worth starting a logistics cooperative for and owned by mom and pop businesses. Have a warehouse nearby for fulfillment, take orders up until 15 before the hour, dispatch trucks on the hour and get stock out to stores within the hour. It would let them expand their selections by having to carry less expensive inventory. You wouldn’t have to be at the mercy of wholesalers because the warehouse would carry aggregate inventory for all the small stores in a metropolitan area and it would also allow area merchants to negotiate as a bloc just like Amazon. You could even leverage it to let stores offer overnight or same day shipping.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:33 AM on February 16 [7 favorites]


Your Childhood Pet Rock - that's a very long-standing model in the supermarket and hardware industry, where owners of individual or local clusters of stores group together for branding, purchasing and distribution logistics. ShopRite, True Value and Ace Hardware are good examples, although ShopRite is a lot healthier than the hardware co-ops, whose members are have struggled to compete with big boxes.
posted by MattD at 8:04 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


This isn't going to make even a small dent in Amazon's profits unless they can offer free or very cheap shipping.
The fact that their website has no mention of shipping charges


Paying the real cost of shipping is a great way to make sure you’re not externalizing the costs of your shopping.
posted by Automocar at 9:06 AM on February 16 [17 favorites]


You know what will get me to use brick and mortar stores, keep building webpages like that bloated abomination this thread linked to.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:06 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I worked at a family-owned Indy bookshop for five years in the 90s. Right in the thick of destruction. Amazon can die in a fire. Go Bookshop. (RIP Chinook)
posted by j_curiouser at 9:46 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


I hate book websites that just offer endless lists of somebody else’s favorite books, and I am left just looking up a book already known to me. I have spent my life in bookstores, and the chance of discovery is what makes real brick and mortal bookstores better than any of this web based nonsense. You can’t browse for books on a website. The information bandwidth is way too narrow compared with shelves of books staring you in the face. Humbug... ( that seeming typo up there is a fortuitous mistake)
posted by njohnson23 at 9:57 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


I pretty much never buy physical books from Amazon, so I don't think I have any reason to use this. I would be much more in the market for a way to buy ebooks from independent booksellers or even directly from publishers. There's a book that I want to read on my iPad, and when I checked the publisher's website, they link directly to Amazon and a couple of other big tech sites (Google Play, Apple Books, etc.) They have a link to Books a Million, which I guess is the closest they get to not-a-tech-behemoth.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:31 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I don’t think the goal so much is to hurt Amazon but rather to help small book shops?
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:48 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


I read ebooks almost exclusively, so I'm unlikely to use this, but I applaud it wholeheartedly and will look at it first when I want to buy a physical book. I'm not interested in killing Amazon, but I want it to face real competition.

The problem with retail these days isn't just the giants or the online sellers -- the Amazons, Home Depots, Walmarts, etc. -- but with the fact that traditional retail is directed at the middle class purchaser, and the middle class (in America, at least) has declined in both number and in spending power. So much money has to go to health care and housing that everyone is left scrambling for money to spend on the other necessities and luxuries, making discount purchases more and more necessary. Sure, Amazon has steamrolled a lot of traditional retail businesses, but the realities of the economy keep the discount retailers in place.
posted by lhauser at 12:46 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Paying the real cost of shipping is a great way to make sure you’re not externalizing the costs of your shopping.

That's a good soundbite, but "the real cost of shipping" seems to be as meaningless as "the real cost of a medical procedure." If you're shipping thousands of packages a day, you are naturally going to get far better rates than if you're shipping dozens. So should I "support" an indie by paying FedEx whatever they require the indie to pay, or should I just go for the lowest total delivered price, taking advantage of the better shipping rates that Amazon is able to force on USPS/FedEx/UPS?
posted by spacewrench at 12:47 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Great to hear about this! I search for every alternative available to avoid shopping on Amazon, so this goods news for bookstores and socially conscious shoppers.
posted by blue shadows at 12:56 PM on February 16


Have you tried Biblio? I’ve bought all my used books through them and it helps keep independent local bookshop alive.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:33 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Spacewrench.... Is that an honest question?

Amazon doesn't provide true shipping charges (whether you have prime or not)
posted by matimer at 1:35 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


In this case 'helping small bookshops' also equals 'giving Ingram more business.' The small % going back to stores is not exactly the Win Against The Big Guys they're framing it as.
posted by mintcake! at 1:40 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I have Prime, so I almost never see shipping costs (although I recently investigated how hard it would be to make a completely anonymous purchase from Amazon ... TLDR: it's REALLY hard!)

At any rate, I have no doubt Amazon will gouge you for shipping if they are able to, but it's certain that they're not paying $6.99 for every package they ship. On the other hand, any random non-Amazon online store might be up-charging for shipping, or they may be passing their cost through directly. But either way, trying to support the non-Amazon place by paying for shipping is futile -- you're either allowing them to gouge you, or you're feeding FedEx/UPS and not providing any particular support to the shop.

(I realize I'm engaging in the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" fallacy: just because Amazon turns the screws on UPS/FedEx/USPS doesn't make Amazon my friend. But only Amazon has the clout to turn those screws -- I don't have any pull, so without Amazon, I'm stuck paying whatever FedEx charges.)
posted by spacewrench at 1:47 PM on February 16


Amazon are a shitshow, but they're also the best and most affordable way to get hold of books if you live in a lot of places, particularly via the Kindle. I live in a poor area. I love spending hours browsing indie bookshops, but my nearest is very small and an hour away, and frankly not worth an hour's travel. No-one wants to set up an independent bookshop in my low-income, unglamorous area - if they did, I'd support it and shop there.

So if I want to get hold of a book and it isn't in the library, my default first stop is to see if I can get it for Kindle. I get hold of it instantly with no delivery delays or charges, and I don't have to drive to the nearest affluent place where the kind of people who set up indie bookshops like to live. Amazon give people in places like mine access to books that they wouldn't normally be able to easily obtain - where else am I going to get hold of, say, LGBTQ literature here? They aren't shutting down the non-existent indie bookshops of my town.
posted by winterhill at 2:04 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


(I realize I'm engaging in the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" fallacy: just because Amazon turns the screws on UPS/FedEx/USPS doesn't make Amazon my friend. But only Amazon has the clout to turn those screws -- I don't have any pull, so without Amazon, I'm stuck paying whatever FedEx charges.)

I guess I don't see why shipping companies are "the enemy". Amazon has fucked them to the point where they now rely on contractors as well. Fed Ex refuses to ship for Amazon because they can't afford to pay a decent wage and benefits to their workers when shipping Amazon packages. If you're happy when the people literally doing the heavy lifting are taking on the costs for gas and vehicle upkeep, have no healthcare or paid time off and no retirement fund then I guess it does make sense for Amazon to screw shipping companies. Win win, as they say.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:11 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


Rambly, but publisher Chad Post is skeptical that Bookshop will succeed

Reasons he gives:
* Ethics are just one of many factors a consumer considers, and that's all that this really has over Amazon
* As y'all pointed out already, most people don't have a local indie bookstore to support in the first place
* They don't have a full selection, so if you need to order two books maybe you can get one of them on Bookshop, maybe you have to go to Amazon for the other

---
I've personally switched to Indiebound for paper copies of books, but it's convenient for me because there's a participating bookstore on my bus route. I can do "pick up in store" and it more or less counts as free shipping to me. I do Powells if I can get a cheaper used copy.

I still mostly read ebooks, which I usually get from the library. Every now and then there's a book I need to read RIGHT NOW and if the library doesn't have it, I get it from Amazon. I would pay a higher price in those cases for another ebook vendor option, but the ebook economy is so fractured that I can't really do that without jumping through some slightly illegal hoops. I also keep an eye on Amazon deals and if I see a book I've been wanting to read for $2.99, I eat my ethics and get it.

I would estimate that about 80-90% of my reading is from the library.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:26 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


This is getting way off topic, so I won't continue beyond this answer. It's not really helpful to think of companies as "enemies" or "friends." They just are. And their nature is to take as much from the entities they interact with as they possibly can, based on the relative power of the interacting parties and the risk that the deal won't go through at all (which would be worse for at least one of the parties). Amazon is terrible for brick-n-mortar and mom&pop, but it's also terrible for UPS, FedEx, USPS, and for all the independent-contractor shippers that lost their FedEx jobs and now have to drive for Amazon for less money and no benefits. And all of that screwing represents value flowing to Amazon shareholders.

But I cannot individually affect Amazon one whit, and I do not believe there's a scenario where enough consumers can act jointly to affect Amazon, short of some sort of societal collapse where Amazon was somehow stuck trying to maintain its operations by selling exclusively to billionaires because nobody else could buy from them or drive for them or risk their lives shuffling boxes in a warehouse.

This is something that a functional government could do something about. But we don't have that, either. A friendly local bookshop -- even if it's not an astroturf front for Big Publishing -- is not the straw that's going to break Amazon's back, nor the knife edge of the wedge that's going to topple them.
posted by spacewrench at 2:26 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


The United States Postal Service is not a company. And it is required to pay pension and health care benefits for retirees up to 75 years into the future, a mandate faced by no other government entity. "Turning the screws" on the USPS is not "sticking it to The Man."
posted by virago at 2:29 PM on February 16 [22 favorites]


It's not really helpful to think of companies as "enemies" or "friends." They just are. And their nature is to take as much from the entities they interact with as they possibly can, based on the relative power of the interacting parties and the risk that the deal won't go through at all (which would be worse for at least one of the parties).

If you have even a vague sense of self-preservation, that does, actually, generally make them your enemies.
posted by praemunire at 3:35 PM on February 16 [4 favorites]


Think of it this way: you consumers work for lower prices by collectively bargaining for them at every point, from supplier to retailer to logistical provider. That is what consumer demand does by simply existing. In this case, every consumer who ever used Amazon did it through Amazon.

The "real" cost of shipping means nothing as long as it's being done by willing actors all along the way. That is the real cost. Wait, you mean the cost they deserve? As decided by whom? The cost they want? Heh, I have yet to find someone who doesn't want a higher wage.

If you have even a vague sense of self-preservation, that does, actually, generally make them your enemies.

If your sense of self preservation depends on propping up consumer costs all along the way, you are The Man, and we're all sticking it to you by shopping Amazon.

As far as Bookshop is concerned, I welcome all. More is better. "Public benefit" remains to be seen, as if a dot-org signifies some kind of noble purpose. And actual success is an uphill battle. But more sources to choose from is always better.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:29 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I use Amazon for
* Ebooks
* Used books

I may have picked up a few new books from Amazon - I did get the Fate Accelerated rulebook from them when it was $5. It's now $7.20 at Amazon, and Bookshop.org has it for $9.66... in Danish. I don't think I'm going to be doing any shopping at Bookshop.org.

The idea of "spend more on both products and shipping in order to Support Your Local Businesses instead of the evil megacorp" is one of the illusions of ethical spending in late-stage capitalism. If I just buy from Amazon and save the additional money, I can donate that to a group I support. While I like supporting my local bookstores, I'd rather support the ACLU or EFF.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:27 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Fun Fact: Amazon locates it’s distribution center within five miles of KOA camp grounds. Because it doesn’t pay the warehouse employees enough to afford rent.

So I’d rather pay a business, local or otherwise, that doesn’t force its employees to be god damned homeless and go on food stamps and other public subsidies.

Amazon not only causes economic blight and gentrification, but offloads it’s responsibilities onto the taxpayer. So even if I don’t shop there I still fund their bullshit.

THEN Amazon has the balls to pay millions to lobby against the very taxes it forces its poorest employees to depend upon.

And of course doesn’t pay taxes itself when and where ever it can.

So. In short: Fuck Amazon.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 8:57 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


The "real" cost of shipping means nothing as long as it's being done by willing actors all along the way.

"Willing actors?" Is this humor?
posted by praemunire at 9:03 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


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