On Not Linking to Amazon
Every so often someone in the book industry tries to make an argument that websites should not link to the one site where everyone knows that they can find the books they want (Amazon).
This time around the ramblings come from Publishers Weekly:
Michael and I contacted the respective publications. Surely they could see the disconnect in sourcing a book list from local bookshops and then pushing readers to buy those books from an online discount megastore? Both removed the Amazon links. But why did we have to ask?
It seems to be a trend. Even as people seek out the expertise of indie booksellers, they treat Amazon as the default for book links. Bloggers write about shopping local while linking to Amazon. Authors appeal to bookstores for book tours and sales but announce their books on Facebook with Amazon links (yes, even for a book titled How to Find Love in a Bookshop).
Outlets and individuals who publish compelling content exert some control over the cultural conversation. With their choice of links, they drive consumer behavior as well. It’s one thing to publish a book review; it’s another to publish a book review in which each book title is linked to a website that sells books. One is a piece of criticism; the other is criticism and a sales tool. When people click those links, a habit forms. Book-loving social media users, bloggers, and editors have the power to shape those habits.
The thing that gets me about pleas like this is how they never offer a practical alternative.
It’s not just that they can’t match the financial incentive of linking to Amazon (and so what they are really asking is for websites to give up on income) but also that the suggested alternatives are of no benefit to readers.
Sure, I could link to my local bookstore, West Bumfuck Books and Bait. Anyone who lives in the area will of course have the time to go there and buy the books I mention.
And of course WBBB has those books in stock, and they sell online. Anyone who lives in San Francisco and happens to read my article will, of course want to buy the books I mention from WBBB because the store has an immense warehouse of books at prices far below the publisher’s list price and will ship anywhere in two days at no charge.
eBooks? WBBB has an amazing ereader and great Android and iPhone apps that let me download any ebook I want in seconds at really low prices, sometimes even free.
(Want to hear something funny? Pleas like this is are so repetitive that I was able to respond by cribbing text that was published on The Passive Voice blog four years ago.)
Why is it that so many that make this type of plea are so unaware of the fact that they’re repeating ideas that simply don’t work?
Here’s what the OP suggested:
What if book titles in online media linked to each book’s page on its publisher’s site instead, where the “buy” button offers multiple options? Or what if titles linked to IndieBound.org, the online shopping site managed by the American Booksellers Association, which connects users to the independent shops nearest them as well as indies that ship nationwide?
Finding the publisher website, 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. (It also doesn’t sell ebooks, so if that’s what they want to buy then they will be SOL.)
The other thing about Indiebound is that it won’t help you find indie bookstores. It will only direct you to ABA members, a group that includes museum gift shops, college bookstores, airport bookstores, and online booksellers.
Sure, I will send someone to Indiebound; that way, if they are within driving distance of Staunton, VA, they can buy the book they want from ABA member Pufferbellies Toys.
I am sure it will be in stock.