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Bookstores May Boycott New Amazon-Published Books 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-embracing-the-future dept.
destinyland writes "Amazon has begun signing their own authors and then publishing the books themselves, leaving booksellers 'wary' as Amazon 'tries to have it all,' according to a Boston newspaper. The co-owner of an independent bookstore near Cambridge considered boycotting Amazon's new line of books, complaining, 'They are a huge competitor, and they don't collect sales tax, giving them an unfair advantage.' A children's bookstore noted that 'the pie is getting cut into fewer pieces. I'd be nervous if I were an adult book publisher.' Borders bookstore has already declared bankruptcy, leaving The Daily Show to joke that bookstores should simply become 'digital downloading' stations — or a 'living history' museum where future generations can learn what a 'magazine rack' was."
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Bookstores May Boycott New Amazon-Published Books

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  • by Tasha26 (1613349) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @02:56PM (#37155526) Homepage
    There we go again... Is this the correct chronological order of ascension to evilness: Microsoft, Apple, Amazon...?
    • Left some out... IBM, beat by Microsoft, Apple, Google (or Google Apple, it is a tough call) Facebook, Netflix (I have to pay more, and deal with you dam popups?) Amazon. And throughout it all as an undercurrent SONY... (We were evil before Evil was cool)
    • What's evil about Amazon business model here?

      FWIW, I live in a state where Amazon does charge the sales tax. I still buy most (English) books from Kindle store. It's not the price that matters - it's the convenience.

  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @03:02PM (#37155574)
    The article identifies ONE well-selling book. Amazon has been doing print-on-demand and e-publishing for thousands of hacks already, and even for some algorithms that do nothing but mash Wikipedia pages together. I really wouldn't be surprised if this ends up working more as leverage for those services than to pounce on the next big authors.
  • What competing bookstores? There's Barnes and Noble, and a few remaining independents. Borders is in bankruptcy liquidation. ("Everything must go! 40-60% off! Store fixtures for sale.) Barnes and Noble is in financial trouble. [examiner.com] When they go, there won't be much left.

    When the big guys give it up, the distribution channel dries up.All the warehousing and shipping needed to service little bookstores isn't profitable if the volume is too small.

    Bookstores are going the way of record stores and video rental

    • Bookstores are going the way of record stores and video rental stores.

      Isn't this really more about publishers than bookstores, though?

      If Amazon is effectively positioning itself as the entire supply chain from author to reader, a lot of middlemen are going to get cut out, which in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing if they no longer serve a useful purpose but cream a bit off the top anyway.

      However, given that Amazon have little credible competition for two major sales channels (on-line ordering of paper books, and distribution of e-books), there is a very real danger here t

      • by Animats (122034)

        Isn't this really more about publishers than bookstores, though?

        It is. We'll probably still have a publishing industry, but it will publish the few mass-market titles that appear in racks at non-bookstore retailers, like drug stores and supermarkets. Everything else will be remote-order or on line only. For those books, the publisher has a very limited role and function.

      • by Skreems (598317)
        In all seriousness, if you have a problem with this trend, produce something good and sell it in physical form. Or open a book store. Just because a lot of the culture is shifting this direction doesn't mean that one or two people with a vision can't start a movement in the other direction, if they can convince enough people.

        Personally I don't see physical books vanishing anytime soon. Until they provide contracts equivalent to what you can do with paper books, libraries will still have a need for physica
        • Personally I don't see physical books vanishing anytime soon.

          They won't, just like 8-Tracks, Cassette Tapes, CDs, and MP3s have not killed off all Records and Small Record Stores.
      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        This is pretty much the fear of most people I know who are into books and know about amazon. This effect will be slowed down by libraries, but it will likely push through regardless.

  • by the_raptor (652941) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @03:07PM (#37155610)

    They are a huge competitor, and they don't collect sales tax, giving them an unfair advantage

    No Amazon has an "unfair advantage" over an independent book store because:
    a) It doesn't have sales staff who spend most of their time not actually doing anything.
    b) Doesn't pay prime commercial rents on its facilities.
    c) Has a collection so vast that no physical book store could compete.
    d) Is a huge corporation so purchasing, HR, marketing, shipping etc is amortised by the sheer volume they sell.
    e) Is a huge corporation and negotiates favourable tax breaks with state and federal authorities.

    Amazon doesn't want to pay state taxes not because paying them would make them unprofitable, but because working out the taxes for 50 US states plus all the other countries they ship to (who would probably start demanding tax collection if Amazon caved to the states) is an unholy nightmare.

    Bricks-and-mortar stores need to stop whining about on-line businesses not paying sales taxes, and need to start restructuring their businesses to deal with advantages that huge retailers like Amazon have. Here in Australia the b&m retailers are whining that imports under $1000AUD don't pay 10% sales tax, completely ignoring that those goods are generally 30% - 50% cheaper then the same product from a b&m store. A 3% - 5% price increase on those imports isn't going to save b&m stores.

    • by destinyland (578448) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @03:21PM (#37155710)
      Actually, Amazon has already calculated the taxes for every region where they sell. They actually collect that tax when they're re-selling items from other retailers (for example, K-Mart).

      http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=2990 [cbpp.org]

      So their opposition has nothing to do with the "OMG it'd be an unholy nightmare" scenario. Bezos has even said Amazon incorporated in Seattle specifically for the tax advantage, and Amazon's own shareholder's documents specifically identify sales taxes as a competitive advantage.

      But in fact, Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, likes to say that Amazon already collecting state sales taxes. In this year's shareholders' call in June, Bezos told investors that "in more than half of the geographies where we do business - certain states, as well as Europe and Asia - all together, more than half of our business is in jurisdictions where we already collect sales tax or its equivalent, like the value-added tax."

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Amazon has bricks and mortar in a lot of places, so of course they have to collect there. It's one of the reasons I buy a lot of stuff at other online retailers.

        So while the state-tax issue helps Amazon, it's also helping a number of mom-n-pop online resellers.

        Borders? Computer Library? They're still fucked.

      • But in fact, Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, likes to say that Amazon already collecting state sales taxes.

        He may like to say that, but they avoid it at all costs. Recently, when California tried to ensnare Amazon by requiring payment of state income taxes, Amazon shut down all affiliate connections it had to stores in the entire state, disrupting huge amounts of small businesses. Ultimately, many are predicting that it will actually lower state tax revenue, not to mention the loss to the California economy.

        Amazon will conform when it absolutely has to, but it's quite misleading to emphasize how much Amazon

    • by hibiki_r (649814)

      It's not an unholy nightmare: It actually relatively simple. Third party vendors will do most of the heavy lifting for you. I've worked at companies that charged tax in 50 states with no issues, very little actual code to support said taxes, and no more than a few extra clerks to handle giving the actual tax back to the states. Home Depot does it. Barnes and Noble does it. Catalog companies do it wherever they have presence. Why in the world can't Amazon do it?

      It's an issue of not just having an even bigger

      • It's also a great way to kill off any small online retailers. Suddenly anyone who wants to sell something online needs "a few extra" employees who add no value to the company? That'll help start ups.
    • You forgot one:

      f) Their customers get to visit local stores, examine the books there to decide which they want to buy entirely at the local store's expense, and then go buy it from Amazon anyway because it's cheaper.

      Personally, I buy books I care about (presents, for example) from a good local store precisely because I value the customer service they offer and being able to browse. But every time I go in these days, it seems like someone is standing holding their iWhatever and ordering off Amazon right ther

    • by Luckyo (1726890)

      FYI: they pay taxes to other countries they ship to. If they didn't their goods would simply get impounded in customs.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        FYI: they pay taxes to other countries they ship to. If they didn't their goods would simply get impounded in customs.

        Amazon UK don't charge tax on shipments to me; if customs decide I need to pay tax I have to collect it at the post office and pay there.

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          That would be because it pays VAT in UK, and under EU rules that is the tax that needs to be paid for sales inside EU.

        • by zyzko (6739)

          And Amazon UK won't ship Kindle to me. They just say go to US site (which calculates taxes right there when ordering and charges that on your credit card and authorizes to courier firm to do the tax/toll handling).

          This from Finland.

      • As I mentioned in my post Australia doesn't charge sales tax on imports under $1000 AUD (because it was costing more then it was generating). AFAIK most other countries charge import duties to cover the missing sales tax which the reciever has to pay to get their package.

        I would bet Amazon only pays sales taxes to countries where it was a business presence.

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          Possible, but then again amazon has business presence in pretty much all major countries.

    • by kborer (1420531)
      People rarely consider the alternative. Instead of focusing on adding a tax burden on Amazon, why not push to get rid of the taxes on traditional book stores? Then books will be cheaper everywhere.
  • This is good news. Hopefully, Amazon will start publishing school textbooks, too, at a fraction of the overinflated price that conventional publishers currently charge.

    Better yet, publish them as e-books and sell Kindles to school boards.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      The middle men always bitch when they are cut out. It goes to show a natural monopoly won't last long if it's abused. The music and book publishers abused their position for so long they actually thought they were indispensable. They thought wrong.

  • There is a borders within a half mile walk from my apartment. It's in a high densitiy urban setting along with a plethora of other shops, two movie theaters, numerous restauraunts, etc.

    Everytime I'm out on a leisurely stroll, I go in and browse throught the Philosophy, Religion, Politics, History, and IT sections. They very rarely have anything I want to read. With the bankruptcy, I've been stopping in more often as they get new shipments from their warehouse. After four visits, they finally had one title I

    • So what we're actually seeing is the death of mass-market booksellers in preference to mega-mass-market Amazon

      fix'd

  • "Hello Mr Bookstore Owner, I'm looking for Big New Amazon Thriller."
    "Oh, you can't buy that here. We don't sell Amazon books. Amazon are evil."
    "So you're not going to sell me the books I want to buy?"
    "No. If you want to buy Amazon books you'll have to buy them from Amazon, or the bookstore down the road which does stock them."
    "Well, guess I won't be buying anything from you in future then."

    With policies this retarded it's no wonder so many bookstores are going bust.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      What bookstore has ever had every book you ever wanted?

      You'll buy what you find there. You'll go elsewhere if they don't have it. In one out of a few million instances, Shopper A will try to order Book B through a particular outlet C. And if they say "we don't have it and we can't even get it," shopper A will move on to outlet D and come back to outlet C because it's still better than outlet D.

      Thing is, outlet D is Amazon, and there aren't many that are better at just being an outlet.

  • by Chemisor (97276) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @04:05PM (#37156036)

    When on this subject, I always recall that great movie "You've Got Mail", where a small "Shop Around The Corner" is out-foxed by a big chain. "Can we save the Shop Around The Corner?" Asks Kathleen Kelley and the crowd goes wild. Of course, while offering verbal encouragement, the crowd continues to not offer its business. Is that evil? Uncharitable? Unwise? "I've heard Joe Fox compare books to olive oil", says Kathleen Kelley. Kathleen Kelley is a walking encyclopedia on the subject of children's books and can offer you advice on what to read with your kids. Kathleen Kelley hosts a reading hour to get kids interested in reading. Kathleen Kelley knows who you are and always offers service with a smile. Is it worth it?

    The Shop Around The Corner employs four people: the owner, Kathleen Kelley, and two college students. Let's peg decent wages for them at, say, $100000, $60000, and 2x$20000. In New York, you can barely live on this. Let's add rent on the place at $20000/year, and other miscellaneous expenses of $20000/year on business license, electricity, insurance, whatever. That comes to $240000/year, $960/day. "Is that why it costs so much?" "That's why it's worth so much." The store is open, say, 12 hours a day, 8am-8pm. That's $80/hour, or $1.33/minute. How fast can you check out? Friendly service with a smile takes time.

    Small shops can get away with higher markup. The books, after all, are already there, so there's an expectation of immediate satisfaction which can tolerate a higher price. Let's say $10 markup for hardcovers and $2 on paparbacks, which is just barely on the line between making a profit and losing your customers. If an average customer buys a hardcover and two paperbacks, each checkout nets you $14. You need to get a customer like that every 10 minutes to get the aforementioned income level. Now, if you've ever been to a small bookstore, you'd know that they are usually empty. I don't know if people hate books, or what, but I've never seen more than ten people in a store at once, and that's a crowd. That was twenty years ago. I imagine now things are even worse. I can not imagine how anyone can run a small bookstore profitably.

    What exactly do you get at "Shop Around The Corner" that you do not get on Amazon? Customer service. If you are the kind who likes to chat, to ask advice, and to receive books from a real human being, that must be invaluable to you. Only, can't you get better social interaction by spending time with your friends? Ok, there's also advice about what to read. After all, Kathleen Kelley knows everything. Well, that's why we have friends who tell us what we might like, book clubs, review sites, and amazon lists and recommendations. Ok, but isn't it nice to pick up a real book, feel the binding, smell the pages, and flip through it to see if what's inside? A nice thing to have indeed, but is it really worth a $10 markup?

    The bottom line is: you go to the bookstore to buy a book. You don't need to go there to socialize or to ask advice. You just need the book. Amazon gets you the book with minimum overhead, so you can spend that money you saved on something you like instead of on keeping Kathleen Kelley in business. Oh, by the way, the author of the book is surely more important to you than she is, and the authors get 40% royalties when they publish on Amazon, and maybe 10% elsewhere (if they haggle real hard). Isn't it better to reward the creators rather than useless, but nice, middlemen?

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @04:19PM (#37156142)

      The bottom line is: you go to the bookstore to buy a book. You don't need to go there to socialize or to ask advice.

      I dunno. At the bookstore I used to buy from when I was living in England there was this hot twentyish blonde chick who was unable to do up the top half of the buttons on her blouse and would lean over when running your credit card through the machine.

      You don't get that at Amazon.

      • The bottom line is: you go to the bookstore to buy a book. You don't need to go there to socialize or to ask advice. You just need the book.

        This is a very limited view of what shopping is for many people. Not to stereotype, but while many men go to stores knowing exactly what they are going to buy ahead of time (or having a very small range of well-researched options), most women and many men also like to browse. They like to find surprises. They like to try things out. They might like expert advise, particularly on a topic they are unfamiliar with.

        This style of shopping is becoming less common as internet sales go up. But there are lots

    • Er, but that movie ends when the "Shop Around The Corner" is driven out of business by the chain bookstore. Kathleen Kelley falls in love with the chain store's owner, Tom Hanks, and surrenders happily to loss of her locally-owned business.

      A humorous footnote. Mega-corporation AOL paid $5 million to the producers of the film so they'd change its title to AOL's catch-phrase -- "You've Got Mail" - proving once that even movie-goers themselves have to surrender to the whims of corporations.

  • From what I can see, the actual story is that one bookseller has considered boycotting Amazon in response to one strong-selling Amazon book.

    Headline makes it sound like this is an industry-wide trend, but then again, this is Slashdot...

    while( ! article.isWorthwhile() ) { article.generalize(); } article.publish();

  • I know bookstores have few customers these days, but I like them and need them. I like to relax in the bathtub with a good book. I prefer paper books over "ebooks", reading a webpage on the screen is fine, reading a whole book is not.
    • reading a webpage on the screen is fine, reading a whole book is not.

      That's what ereaders are for.

  • So if bookstores choose to boycott Amazon-published books, leaving Amazon to sell the books themselves like they do most other books, doesn't this make brick-and-mortar bookstores even less relevant?

  • Amazon.Com does NOT have a sales tax advantage in the eyes of the law. Yes they do not collect them, but individuals are still required by law to pay use tax on them unless the item is tax-free per state guidelines. So if the state is losing money, it is because Amazon's customers are committing tax fraud.

  • I have a Kindle and I like having an e-reader.

    I think digital is the way to go for hippie reasons, making it easier to move when I go to another apartment, and for dozens of other reasons.

    Libraries are getting under-utilized now that so much reference information is online.

    People who like reading typically LOVE coffee shops. (which is why Borders had Seattle's Best, Barnes and Noble has Star Bucks and Books-A-Million has Joe Mug)

    WHY DO THEY HAVE TO BE DIFFERENT?

    In the future (as in tomorrow) I would LOVE to build a multi-story Library/Coffee Shop/Bookstore. Have all the racks upon racks of print books upstairs (the actual library section), have the first floor full of sofas, overstuffed chairs, print magazines, shelves upon shelves of "take a book leave a book" racks (coffee shop near my place has one) for people to anonymously trade print books and magazines, have a movie viewing room, maybe a bike service section outside. It should appeal to hipsters and college students to no end, make people upset about the disappearing bookstores happy (especially if we keep retail physical media going), make the people who are upset about libraries disappearing happy, and it should be self financing through media sales and overpriced coffee.

    Just thinking out loud here.

    • by Unkyjar (1148699)

      I sure hope you don't use Kindle for environmental reasons. If you do, you should do more research on what it takes to make a single unit.

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