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IBPA Members React to Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar

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This blog post is in response to the April 2016 IBPA Independent Help Desk feature entitled Will Amazon Be Grounded?. Help Desk is a new feature within the magazine where we will answer questions asked by IBPA members. But in this, our inaugural feaure, we asked the question and you replied! Here’s a selection of your replies.

How do you feel about the possibility of Amazon opening brick & mortar stores? How do you think it will affect your business?

Compiled by Lynn Rosen

In November 2015, Amazon opened a brick-and-mortar bookstore, called Amazon Books, in its hometown of Seattle. Many noted the irony of having a physical store run by the online retailer blamed for the demise of so many bookstores. The store features face-out displays and placards with customer reviews and ratings, along with pricing that matches what’s online. As Jennifer Cast, v-p of Amazon Books, said in a letter on the site: “We’ve applied 20 years of online bookselling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping.”

What might the logic be in this step? Acording to Forbes, brick-and-mortar stores could benefit the company in several ways. They would “…provide a more personal shopping experience to its consumers, reduce shipping costs …and integrate the online and offline shopping experience for its consumers in addition to creating a strong brand image.”

Many wondered if this foretold future additional stores, and rumors are swirling that an additional 3-400 stores are in the works. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report a planned additional 400 stores, but the source of this information, the chief exec of a mall operating company, recanted. If it does prove to be true, however, how will it affect the industry? Is this good for publishers?

Below, IBPA members react….

Teresa Brown, Author/Publisher, Crary Publications

Since all my sales are online, it won’t affect me at all.  I’m surprised that Amazon would even consider such a move since most brick and mortar book stores have had a drop in business since Amazon’s books became such an easy buy online.  Why go to a bookstore when you can easily buy what you need from the comfort of your own home?

Bret Cousins, Author, Corrxan Inc.

Considering Amazon appears to be only marginally profitable on-line because of the costs of keeping up with technology, it seems to be a backward step for them. The market is dominated by Barnes & Noble in the States and Chapters/Indigo in Canada for a reason. That makes for one big market entry hurdle for Amazon.

Lincoln Cole, Author/Publisher, Lincoln Cole Publishing

Amazon has been able to generate enormous waves in the publishing industry with every decision they make, and if they are able to translate their success into brick and mortar sales, then anyone who is loyal to the company can and will benefit. I believe Amazon will tie this into their Kindle Unlimited service, requiring an author to sign up for Kindle Unlimited to have a better chance of receiving display space in Amazon’s brick and mortar store. In either case, I feel this marks another dramatic shift in the publishing industry as everyone waits for the dust to settle and the chips fall where they may between digital and print publishing.

Ronald E. Yates, Author/Publisher, ronaldyatesbooks

I am encouraged that Amazon, the leader in the e-book market, is choosing to buck the trend by opening traditional book stores. The saddest thing I’ve seen in the past several years has been the wholesale shuttering of brick and mortar stores. Nothing can equal the tangible experience of holding a physical book in your hands and leafing through it before buying it is something you just can’t do online.

Pam Glenn, Owner/Publisher, CLASS ACTION INK

Amazon has already changed the book world beyond recognition: To watch it  gobble up Main Street USA by selling everything, including GroupOn-like deals, online 24/7 galls me. I don’t know what more they hope to accomplish with brick & mortar outlets. CAI is so tiny and profits so little (if at all) by filling Amazon orders that I can’t see how their store would make much difference to our business.

Michael Mullin, Author/Publisher, Gemiknight Press

Amazon could open a store in any category, so the fact they chose books is encouraging. If I understand the venture correctly, site reviews will get you on shelf and help your store presence. This merit-based approach is intriguing vs. the money based one (e.g. in-store signage or a co-op table) that all but shuts out indie publishers.

Rudy Shur, Publisher, Square One Publishers

More questions than answers. Will they be discounting their titles as they do on the internet? How much of their stores will be devoted to selling their other products beyond books? Will their stores make money or be treated as loss leaders? Fair competition is always good unless it is unfair. Time will tell.

David Wogahn, President, Sellbox

I am reminded of the words of the late Dan Poynter: “Amazon is the best thing that’s ever happened to independent publishers.” In light of that, how can more bookstores be a bad thing?

Edysol D. Price, Managing Director, John M. Hardy Publishing

This will significantly increase my cost of supporting their business model. We currently support up to eight dislocated warehouses across the country negating the past cost effectiveness of “Central Distribution.” Amazon acts like the abusive spouse, and are franchising their abuse to local markets.

Brenda Avadian, Author/Publisher, North Star Books

Amazon has made it possible for micro-publishers such as North Star Books to have mainstream access. The brick and mortar stores will enhance this access. However, I remain curious as to the nature of the boardroom discussions that led to this decision.

Edward Cozza, Owner/Author, Pinot Dog

I am a big supporter of the independent book stores across the country and locally, here in San Diego, there is a great one in Warwick’s Book Store, and they have been very supportive of my books. Having the behemoth come in would certainly impact their business, perhaps negatively, but would help mine, so that is a difficult proposition. Bookstores continue to diminish nationwide, and that cannot all be blamed on Amazon, but more that perhaps people are looking at their phones too much and not reading enough, so anything that proliferates reading is good, as long as it is not at the expense of existing bookstores, which I continue to love.

Steven R. Porter, Author/Publisher, Stillwater River Publications

I don’t see it happening on any large scale. High-end mall retail stores are known for exorbitant overhead and books have notoriously low margin compared to soft goods. To survive, Amazon would need to control expenses, avoid discounts, and streamline their selection — and they aren’t very good at any of that.

Maria D’Marco, Owner, TigerXGlobal

Such a move by Amazon could hold tremendous potential for local and regional authors, offering opportunities and options for sales that currently do not exist in their area. I would consider this to be a strong social/cultural move as well, as it could re-orient and broaden book sales options to being a more interactive, personal experience.

Marie Malik, CFO, Huckleberry Lane Enterprises LLC

I have gone into the Amazon Bookstore in Seattle and was unimpressed.  It resembles an airport news kiosk in that there are magazines and only bestsellers available.  If our titles manage to make it to the top of the bestsellers list then it might move inventory but the store is not designed to aid in the discoverability of new books or authors.

Anna Wang, President, Purple Pegasus Inc.

I imagine that an Amazon brick & mortar store can host events on a regular basis to promote books published through CreateSpace, and therefore give small, independent publishers like Purple Pegasus a chance to communicate with our audience, to create a dialogue around our products. I definitely think it will benefit the whole book industry.

Karen Myers, President, Perkunas Press

Anything that expands bookstores, especially those that are friendly to indie authors, is a win.

Deborah Ann Davis, Author/Speaker, D&D Universe, LLC

If Amazon follows the pattern of the big box stores, they will wipe out the Mom&Pop bookstores by offering better deals via bulk. I will continue to avoid the big chains, and support local entrepreneurs and business owners by frequenting them. Unfortunately, it feels inevitable, but I will continue to purchase from small local store owners.

Donna J. Essner, Publisher/Acquisitions Editor, Amphorae Publishing Group

Amazon encroaching on the hallowed ground of retail bookstores is unsettling, intriguing, and certainly worth watching and (learning)–but not surprising. And stocking bestsellers is a given for Amazon, as it is with any B&M store; but I wonder the effect on book buyers whose choice of books in the Amazon retail store is limited based on the reviews by Amazon’s online customers only? For my partners and I here at Amphorae Publishing Group, as well as other small press publishers and our friends at indy bookstores, that, in itself, can play to our advantage, and is a strategy we all should certainly take into account.

Janie Bess, Author and CEO, Writers Resource Center

Amazon is one of the first online business that helped new start-ups like authors, publishers and other businesses promote their goods! My first publication, Visions, received several positive reviews needed to make sales possible.

Anna Faktorovich, Director/Owner, Anaphora Literary Press

Amazon is calculating which books they include in their physical stores based on the highest rankings and top sales in the region. This model means that the physical stores are more exclusive than Barnes and Noble, and should only stock books from the big five publishers. I doubt even its own CreateSpace titles will appear on one of their physical shelves. Most of the books are turned out and this means that the selection is cut in favor of prettier displays and less inventory that might not sell. The whole thing feels like a marketing project for Amazon. It might be using these extremely well-designed stores to advertise the Amazon brand. When I did a reading once in an independent store, the owner told me that if I sell my books on Amazon, I’m a traitor to the independent cause. There are a lot of feelings connected with Amazon (good and bad) and going to a physical store might help clients to see the store in a less abstract light. I wish Amazon was as inclusive and speedy in the selection and turn-around of the books they sell in physical stores as they are online, but if they tried to pack that level of variety into a physical store, they’d be better off creating a little drive-through at their warehouse where people can forego shipping and pick up their orders… But a warehouse drive-through would hardly be a pretty sight from a marketing perspective.

Toni Albert, Author/Publisher, Trickle Creek Books

I’m more concerned about Amazon opening so many local warehouses. Instead of receiving an order for 15-20 books to be shipped to one location, we’ve been receiving orders for one or two books to be shipped to one location, another book to another location, etc. A single book shipment looks like this: Retail price of book – $10.95; payment from Amazon – $4.93; our printing cost – $1.30; shipping by media mail – $2.72; our “profit” – $.91. This is really rough on small publishers!

Stanislav Fritz, Founder, New Libri Press

I used to work at Amazon. This is no surprise. It won’t effect our business as we are so small, we are not carried by most independent bookstores anyways (albeit they can order our book and they are more likely to let the author do something).

Britt Minshall, Author/Publisher, Renaissance Institute

I was thrilled.  I think America has been made poorer because of the disappearance of REAL book stores.  Having said that, I am a bit of a hypocrite as I purchase most of my books online at Amazon or Labyrinth.  The reason is PRICE ONLY.  Somehow we need to equalize the playing field or we are still doomed to being a book-storeless world and that would be a shame.

Pat Alvarado, Head Hog, Piggy Press Books

Brick & mortar stores have their appeal to book lovers, but the profit-margin is precarious, and the ease of online shopping has eclipsed that venue for many, mostly because of mega-vendors like Amazon. So why would Amazon want to turn back the clock? If it does, however, we little pigs will still race for the trough and share the scraps.

Gerald Everett Jones, Host, GetPublished! Radio Show, La Puerta Productions

As an author and an indie publisher, my self-serving question would be: What kinds of events and author appearances will Amazon stores sponsor and promote? How will your outreach help build the community of a literate and involved public?

Judyn Watters, Part Owner, Franklin Scribes Publishers LLC

It’s impossible to talk with a live person at Amazon. I wonder what the Amazon  brick and mortar customer service will be like.

Patricia Rockwell, Publisher, Cozy Cat Press

Uncertain. If they promote small publishers, the idea has great potential for us. Our books appeal to more traditional readers who enjoy hanging out in bookstores. My guess is that it will have little effect.

About the Author

LynnRosen (1)Lynn Rosen is co-owner of the indie Open Book Bookstore in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Lynn was previously editorial director of Book Business magazine and director of Graduate Publishing Programs at Rosemont College.

She is the author of Elements of the Table: A Simple Guide for Hosts and Guests and currently serves as editorial consultant for IBPA Independent.

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