The Reign of Amazon On-Line Book Sales

Amazon continues to threaten independent booksellers.

By: Jordan Smith, Staff Writer

Image courtesy of www.30daybooks.com

Image courtesy of www.30daybooks.com

Amazon has grown so much because it’s fast, convenient, and cheap and it offers a plethora of products. Best-known for its book sales, the company has come to dominate this market and has overshadowed independent re-sellers.

The online giant has come under fire recently for its virtual monopoly on books. Amazon has washed away many brick-and-mortar operations around the world. According to a Guardian article published on June 4,“More than 73 independent booksellers closed down last year, bringing the total number of UK bookshops to 1,028, compared to 1,535 in 2005.”

Amazon’s advantages to consumers are clear, but independent operations can try to remain competitive. Barefoot Books, a U.K. publishing company specializing in children’s books, has decided to cut its ties to chain retailers. “In 2006, Barefoot stopped selling its books through the American book chains Borders and Barnes & Noble, and says that in the year it did this, its sales increased by 40%,”the Guardian writes. Barefoot has recently broken off with Amazon too.

In the same article, co-founder of Barefoot Books,Nancy Traversy, laments that Barefoot’s “books become commodities that are usually heavily discounted.” This suggests the book market and readers are not just concerned with loss of profits and reduced locations.

Traversy suggests that the book is worth far more than money. To the public, books are cultural and social tools that convey messages and relate ideas. The fall of independent retailers is therefore a step backwards for society.

The Booksellers Association of the U.K. has launched a campaign to promote local businesses, which pay local taxes, unlike Amazon. Instead, Amazon makes “reduced payments to the British government by routing sales via a subsidiary in Luxembourg,” according to another Guardian article. The campaign, which launched in 2011, aims to “Keep Books on the High Street.” It claims independent booksellers benefit both the community and the government.

Independent retailers don’t have to give in to giants like Amazon. Barefoot Books not only has a brick-and-mortar location but also a website through which customers can buy books. Although the trend towards online commerce isn’t slowing down, this isn’t the end for small-scale retailers. Independents must evolve according to the market and their own values.

Jordan Smith is a third-year honours history major at Wilfrid Laurier University. In addition to Arbitrage Magazine,he also writes for Laurier’s student-run newspaper, The Cord.

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