Posted by: Michael Kingswood | June 23, 2011

Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face

It seems that’s what some independent bookstores are doing.

I went by Joe Konrath’s blog today, and read his post about J K Rowling self-publishing Harry Potter in ebook format.  In that post, he also discussed other developments in the publishing industry, and linked to this post, where an independent bookstore owner lays out his rationale for not working with authors who are signing with the new Amazon imprints.  This isn’t the first time this has come up; Joe talked a couple weeks back about how he and Barry Crouch were being boycotted by independent bookstores for the same reason, and how silly that was.

As a business guy, I’m flabbergasted by this bookstore owner’s attitude.  I mean: really dude?  Really??

This guy’s not thinking clearly. 

Ok, I get it.  Amazon sells books cheap, and that’s cut into bookstores’ business.  Well sorry, pal, but that’s the evolution of business.  But I can understand him, and his colleagues, being a bit bitter toward them as a competing retailer.

But to refuse to sell a book…that people would buy…just because Amazon is the publisher makes no sense at all.  Think about it.  What if this dude said, “I’m not going to buy any books from St. Martin’s Press because Amazon also sells them”?  It would be exactly the same thing as what he’s doing here.  He’s refusing to make money for himself off a book because his competitor could also make money off of it.  And that, my friends, is lunacy.

He makes a bunch of lame excuses to try to make it seem like he’s thought the thing through: 

  • He doesn’t know what terms Amazon would sell these books under, so he’s not going to buy the books.  In other words, he doesn’t want to do his job as a businessman and investigate potential business opportunities.  Yeah, no points for that one. 
  • He’d have to give Amazon his business and bank account information, and he doesn’t trust them with that data.  Erm, yeah.  Right.  Whatever.  Millions of other individuals and businesses have traded that same information with them, and the sky doesn’t seem to have fallen yet.  Fail.
  • Amazon is a big corporation.  Yeah…so?  Again, not a rational argument.

In the end, his thinking seems to come down to an assertion that Amazon is evil (presumably because businesses that are big and sell cheaply are evil by definition, yet another idiotic meme that seems unwilling to die, no matter how often it is shown to be utterly false).  And therefore he must hurt himself in a completely meaningless show of…I don’t even know what to call it…that will only serve to limit his own revenue and eventually turn his customers into Amazon’s, when they’re unable to find the products they want at his store.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense.  Well done, good business owner.  Well done.

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Responses

  1. Perfect blog post title!

    I can understand wanting to take a stand against a competitor, but when that competitor is offering an opportunity for your business to profit from their success and the deal would give your customers access to products they are interested in, it just makes sense to try to work with them.

    • Yeah no kidding. I can’t get my head around how stupid this decision is. He clearly is making business decisions based on emotion, not ration considerations. Which makes me wonder how he’s stayed in business this long…

  2. You nailed the bizarreness of this behavior. It’s up there with some bookstores charging admission for book signings–hm, let me see, I’ll pay just so I can see the author in person…um, IMO, even if it’s a big name, I kinda don’t care.

    • Yeah. Really, half the point of a signing is to bring business into the store. Hello? Folks come in for a signing and buy books for the author to sign, and the store makes money.

      Or so I thought….?

  3. Uh-huh and how many customers are going to pay for a promotional event? Now change is hard and it’s changing fast, but the local independent bookstore is responding to the e-book revolution by having MORE FREE events with local writers and artists. (And mentioning that you can order e-books through them and support a local business.) Smart.

  4. Saw a link to your post on The Passive Guy. I shared there and on my site a list of six strategies for the local independent book store (http://jgordonsmith.com/)

    It really comes down the the book seller needs to think creatively.


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