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ABA Now Sells Books From the IndieBound Site, But You Won’t Want to Buy Them

Here’s a bit of news that has me scratching my head:

On Tuesday, October 27, the American Booksellers Association launched a test designed to increase traffic to member stores — and to their IndieCommerce websites — by improving the online shopping experience for an initial purchase on Following the purchase, customers will be directed in several ways to nearby ABA bricks-and-mortar stores for future purchases.

In addition to the zip code store search already in place, now offers customers the option of purchasing a book directly from its product page. Data has shown that, almost exclusively, these customers are coming from sites that are not indie bookstores or their affiliates, and they are currently not buying titles in the indie channel, even as the number of visitors to has grown substantially. One of the primary goals of the test is to see if — after a successful, one-time purchase on — these customers can be brought into the indie channel as return buyers at their local independent bookstores.

You can read the rest of the announcement on the ABA’s Bookweb site.

What’s weird about this announcement is that Indiebound is not a consumer-focused website. It is a site for an industry trade group of indie bookstores, and it both looks like and behaves like one.

For example, the front page doesn’t help consumers buy books; it pitches Indiebound. The search function doesn’t find all of the bookstores in my area. It doesn’t even find all of the indie bookstores, just Indiebound members (which is about a third of what I find in Google Maps). Similarly, the list of stores that sell Kobo ereaders doesn’t include Walmart or Best Buy (online, but still).

Furthermore, consumers aren’t going to find the Indiebound site (not unless we already know the name) when we’re searching for bookstores, so trying to sell books from the site is like preaching to the choir. (That lack of traffic is reflected in Quantcast and Alexa, both of which say that Indiebound has less site traffic than this blog.)

TBF, the above points aren’t problems for a trade group’s website, but if you want to sell stuff to consumers then they’re serious deficiencies.

And to top things off, the eCommerce option is buried way the fuck in the back of the site. I actually found the pages accidentally when I was clicking through the best-seller list.

Here’s one such page. Tell me if you can spot the problems:

indiebound sales page

Yes, Indiebound is selling this book at the list price (Amazon has it for $16.80). And no, there aren’t any links to other places to buy the book, not even Kobo, which is an Indiebound partner.

If this is the ABA’s idea of how to compete with Amazon, no wonder Amazon is winning.

Can someone give me a good reason a consumer would overspend on this site rather than highlight the title and author, Google it, and then end up at the top link (Amazon)?

In fact, why not just start a book search on Amazon, where consumers can find hundreds of indie booksellers in the marketplace?

Folks, as I explained last July, the two key steps to helping bookstores thrive is that booksellers have to go to where customers are and give consumers what they want. The new Indiebound eCommerce site, with its high prices and poor design, does neither.

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fjtorres October 29, 2015 um 11:40 am

On the Kobo thing: partners or not, the intent here is clearly to sell hardcovers at full price to those consumers that believe paying anything less than full list price (or to buy ebook editions) is demeaning to the author and devalues literature.

You know, the full members list of the AU and AG. 🙂

carmen webster buxton October 30, 2015 um 11:43 am

Full price or not, I think it’s a mistake for them to even sell the books online, unless they are special signed editions not available elsewhere. The way indie bookstores compete with online is through offering a browsing/personal experience that online can’t offer. They would do better to put their resources into an app that shows the user all the nearest indie bookstores. Selling online at full price is, if you’ll pardon the racy metaphor, like a hooker selling phone sex at in-person prices and expecting the john not to notice the difference.

PM THOMAS November 3, 2015 um 1:08 pm

as we suggested to aba what they need is a share the page or a "Real Find" mentality. the link above is a demo we developed for local storefronts.

On Not Linking to Amazon | The Digital Reader October 16, 2017 um 10:01 am

[…] and then finding a given book on that website, is difficult to impossible. And as for Indiebound, it charges full retail price, and it takes 4 days or more to process an order. I'm not helping my readers by sending them there. […]

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