Amazon's announcement concerning their new affiliate program for booksellers is generating a lot of press today, and there is one story in particular that caught my eye.
A reader left a comment with a link to a post on the Business Insider website (thanks, willem!) which reached the obvious conclusion:
Once a customer is on the Kindle platform, odds are they're going to buy fewer physical books, thus killing the Indie bookstore. In essence, Amazon is telling these companies to onboard customers to a digital platform that will destroy their business.
I figure a lot of pundits are going to say the same thing, just like they did when Waterstoneswith Amazon, so I thought that it would be worthwhile to take a few minutes and debunk the idea.
Given what has happened in the past year and a half I tend to think this conclusion is bunk, and my reasoning is pretty simple.
Consider, for example, the partnership between the ABA and Kobo. In practical terms it is very similar to Amazon Source, the new program which was announced today. This partnership has been in place for well over a year, and according to PW it has been a boon for booksellers. But that should come as no surprise; do you really think the ABA would have set up a deal if it were going to kill bookstores?
If that's not enough, consider Watersones. That UK bookseller has been in bad straits for the past several years, and then they signed with Amazon. They're not doing too badly; over the Christmas quarter they boosted sales by 5% and lost £37 million. If selling Kindles were going to lead to their demise then shouldn't their sales have decreased?
And what about Indigo, Whitcoulls, WHSmith, and Kobo's other bookseller partners? If selling ebooks were really going to result in the death of brick and mortar bookstores then do you really think so many bookstore chains would have signed up?
And finally, if Amazon were capable of killing bookstores then why are more opening every year? There have been any number of articles which point out the number of bookstores in the US. The bookstores are thriving because they offer services that Amazon cannot, including book signings, community events, and more.
I think the resurgence of b&m bookstores will do just fine with this deal (and not just because few will sign up). To put it simply, many bookstores are emphasizing what e-commerce has a tougher time delivering: community and a personal touch. And that is how they will thrive.