'Fox in the henhouse': Kindles try to infiltrate independent bookstores
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Independent bookstores had a bad enough time competing with large bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble, but the trend toward e-book readers is another hit to the solar plexus.
For example, a couple of years ago, you would have found signs in Toadstool Bookshops in New Hampshire warning people to not buy a Kindle because the manufacturer, Amazon, was "forcing" people to only buy their books on Amazon.com, according to the Nashua Telegraph.
Little independent booksellers or smaller chains could sell copy-protected e-books on their websites and in their stores for other e-book readers, but not for Kindles.
Jump forward to Nov. 9 and Amazon.com introduced a new program called "Amazon Source": "(This is a) new program that enables independent bookstores and other retailers to sell Kindle devices and accessories, and earn money while doing so. In addition to a discount on purchasing Kindles and Kindle accessories for resale, retailers will have the option of receiving 10 percent of every Kindle book purchased on Kindle devices sold by the bookstore for the first two years after a customer buys a device."
Many independent booksellers seem to be taking this like a fox announcing it wants to help lay eggs in the henhouse.
Dave Lee at BBC News quoted a bookseller using the fox/henhouse analogy.
Another bookseller, this one in England, told Lee that most bookstores won't be onboard: "Why should they be selling Amazon's products? That will then stop people using their bookshops."
"It's a dagger disguised as an olive branch."
"We make a little on their ebook purchases, but then lose them as a customer completely after two years."
"It's like the bully at school who steals my lunch money and then invites me to sit down and share a chocolate milk (and only gives me, like, half a sip)."
Yet, notwithstanding the grumbling, some bookstores will try this program out. Some already have and like it. A pilot program in JJ Books store in Washington had a bookseller excited that it could help the long-term viability of independent bookstores, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Back in May 2012, Waterstones, UK's largest book chain, closed a deal to sell Kindles in its stores, according to the BBC.
Jay Yarow at Slate says, "In essence, Amazon is telling these companies to onboard customers to a digital platform that will destroy their business."
"As a chunk of the reading population moves to digital," Amazon told Yarow, "we've heard from booksellers that they were looking for a way to sell e-books from their store and make money while doing so. This enables them to earn 10 percent of the revenue."
Yarow, however, wasn't convinced. But partnerships between Amazon and independent booksellers are nothing new.
"For many years, bookstores have successfully sold print books on Amazon — now Amazon Source extends this opportunity to digital," says Amazon vice president for Kindle Russ Grandinetti in the company's press release. "With Amazon Source, customers don't have to choose between e-books and their favorite neighborhood bookstore — they can have both."