News

Book Depository to "operate independently" of Amazon

The Book Depository has said it will continue to operate independently of Amazon, as the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said it was "too early" to say if today's takeover of the online bookseller would trigger an investigation.

The deal was announced this morning, with The Book Depository (TBD) founder Andrew Crawford saying the company was looking forward to “continuing growth” with Amazon’s support.

Calls by The Bookseller to Crawford and TBD m.d. Kieron Smith have been directed to the Amazon UK press office, which is refusing to release any more details about the deal, including how much it is worth. In a statement, Greg Greeley, Amazon’s vice-president of European retail, said: “Customers in more than 100 countries enjoy The Book Depository’s vast selection, convenient delivery and free shipping. The Book Depository is very focused on serving its customers around the world, and we look forward to welcoming them.”

In the same statement, Crawford, who founded TBD in 2004, said: “With the support of Amazon, we look forward to continuing our growth and providing an ever-improving service for readers globally.”

Amid questions as to whether Amazon’s dominance of the online bookselling market would mean the company falls foul of competition regulations, an OFT spokesperson said: “It is too early for us to say if we would investigate the acquisition or merger at this stage.” The company said via its Twitter account that it will "continue to operate independently".

In January, The Book Depository said it was in line to achieve revenues of £120m in June this year, £30m of that from the UK. In the year ending June 2010 The Book Depository reported sales of £69m, with two thirds of that coming from overseas, and made an operating profit of £2.3m.

Twitter has been alight with hundreds of users commenting about today’s announcement, with many TBD customers questioning whether the deal means they will still receive free shipping with purchases from the company. One twitter user “@ruddygood” said: “Anyone else alarmed, dismayed and disturbed by the news that Amazon has bought the Book Depository?” Another, “@Johndep,” said: “Ready for the one publisher, one retailer world of Amazon?”

FutureBook blog: Amazon washes away The Book Depository

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Why am I not surprised at this news?

Will Gardner's be the next to join the Amazon stable ??

This must merit referral to the OFT/Competition Commission. Amazon is in a more market-dominant position today than Waterstone's/Ottakars in 2006.

Philip - let's hope so. I'm wondering if Book Depository are not doing as well as previous reports and they are getting out now whilst the business is still worth something?

Who do people buy books from? If Amazon pre-dominantly, then surely we've only ourselves to blame?

I think this is the saddest news I've heard in a long while - many people used bookdepository because it isn't Amazon! and now they have very few if any real alternative choice in terms of size and scope.
Gutted - really really gutted by this news - there is no now real online choice or competition to Amazon.

Has to be referred, agreed

I used to know of an alternative to thebookdepository that also shipped worldwide for free. I think it had an african sounding name - does anyone know who it is? Maybe I could switch to them instead of going to Amazon.

Expat,

Perhaps you're thinking of Kalhari.net (based in Cape Town)?
http://www.kalahari.net

I don't believe they offer free shipping worldwide on orders less than Rand250.00 in value(approx. GBP23.00 at today's exchange rate).

Bear in mind also that they have already imported the stock into RSA from their suppliers overseas (or very rarely, via local distributors)incurring shipping costs,VAT @ 14%, exchange rate variations, etc. so the final cost when it hits your credit card may not be all that attractive unless you happen to be based in Southern Africa.

I agree with a previous poster, I liked the Book Depository because it wasn't Amazon. Complete sell outs!

To everyone asking "where do we shop now?", how about seeking out a local bookshop who will happily order in any book you wish? Ther e are plenty of us around, and we can get in any title.

If, of course, you're asking where you can get a ridiculously large discount from a company other than Amazon, then yes - you'll have a hard time.

Agree with the others is a real pity
Can not see the Competition Commission doing anything but it takes out Amazon's largest online competitor. They were great as they sold many US sourced books which Amazon.co.uk did not bother stocking.

Does this now mean Play.com or Tesco are the next largest online bookseller after Amazon. However they only sell "normal" UK sourced titles. Not counting Waterstones as their website is rubbish and they have higher limits before free postage.

Agree it sounds like the owners wanting the cash or not being able to fund the company going forward, whilst Amazon are happy to pay to remove another competitor.

It really will only be Amazon and the supermarkets left in a year or so. Then the publishers have only themselves to blame for the lack of competition.

It will be interesting to see how long the retail 50% ++ discounts offered by Amazon are continued - with their biggest 'competitor' out of the way there's no need to give the stock away. Maybe that's why Amazon have bought BD - from the savings anticipated from the reduction in discounts to customers?

Perhaps there's an early clue in a "Bookseller" blog post from Mr. Crawford in May 2009? I quote from para. 5, sentence 1:

"Although I don't wish to be a harbinger of doom, I don't think it is unrealistic to predict that the global book market will reduce by 30% to 50% in the next 10 years".

(spam filter prevented me posting the direct link but you'll find the full article in the Bookseller archives under his name and the header is "Pirates Attack").

Amazon are like the Borg in Star Trek - as soon as you start to become a threat, you're assimilated.

"Resistance is futile"!

(Could be an opportunity for waterstones.com to pull its finger out)

Speaking of discounts, anyone care to guess how long it'll be before the letters start arriving from AMZ at publishers who supply TBD at a more reasonable discount level than the AMZ Advantage scheme, advising that they will be "harmonising" all terms of trade henceforth? I think we can all see where this is going.

Sad sad news.

Can't help but agree that this is a disaster. TBD did seem to be the best hope for challenging Amazon's market dominance of the entire trade and in particular the online portion of the trade. They also brought interesting innovation with them that will no doubt now disappear. I guess amazon also saw them as their major threat hence the takeover.

Not necessarily, think Lovefilm and AbeBooks - http://futurebook.net/content/amazon-washes-away-book-depository

Well this explains why lately I, living in the US, have been unable to get UK only titles from TBD. Sad and such a shame.

Why am I not surprised at this news?

Will Gardner's be the next to join the Amazon stable ??

This must merit referral to the OFT/Competition Commission. Amazon is in a more market-dominant position today than Waterstone's/Ottakars in 2006.

Has to be referred, agreed

I quite agree. The idea that we can see so much book-selling power grasped by one company is lunacy. Amazon is responsible for the vast majority of all new book sales in the UK now. It has a virtual monopoly. When that's tied up with Google's control of back-lists and ebay's ownership of the second hand market, the OFT/Competition Commission must get involved and review the impact on UK book sales.

it definitely needs to be referred to the OFT - how on earth did this not happen before they bought it?
That's too big a market share.

Philip - let's hope so. I'm wondering if Book Depository are not doing as well as previous reports and they are getting out now whilst the business is still worth something?

Perhaps there's an early clue in a "Bookseller" blog post from Mr. Crawford in May 2009? I quote from para. 5, sentence 1:

"Although I don't wish to be a harbinger of doom, I don't think it is unrealistic to predict that the global book market will reduce by 30% to 50% in the next 10 years".

(spam filter prevented me posting the direct link but you'll find the full article in the Bookseller archives under his name and the header is "Pirates Attack").

Who do people buy books from? If Amazon pre-dominantly, then surely we've only ourselves to blame?

I think this is the saddest news I've heard in a long while - many people used bookdepository because it isn't Amazon! and now they have very few if any real alternative choice in terms of size and scope.
Gutted - really really gutted by this news - there is no now real online choice or competition to Amazon.

that's true- I did often.
If it was listed on both, i'd go for the Book Depository one every time.

Totally agree. I have to admit, I mostly shopped with the Book Depository because they weren't Amazon. Wonder were I'll go now, can't quite afford the high street for the amount of books I buy, but want an alternative to the massive corporate, world dominating machine that is Amazon.

I used to know of an alternative to thebookdepository that also shipped worldwide for free. I think it had an african sounding name - does anyone know who it is? Maybe I could switch to them instead of going to Amazon.

Expat,

Perhaps you're thinking of Kalhari.net (based in Cape Town)?
http://www.kalahari.net

I don't believe they offer free shipping worldwide on orders less than Rand250.00 in value(approx. GBP23.00 at today's exchange rate).

Bear in mind also that they have already imported the stock into RSA from their suppliers overseas (or very rarely, via local distributors)incurring shipping costs,VAT @ 14%, exchange rate variations, etc. so the final cost when it hits your credit card may not be all that attractive unless you happen to be based in Southern Africa.

Aphrohead maybe?
Still going last time I checked and recommended. They don't have as broad a range as the others, but most UK-published books, decent prices and free worldwide delivery similar to BD.

The next Book Depository has to be the Leicester Brothers as predicted by many publishers. Snazal, wotnix and Bangzo.

Publishers now need to start grooming and preparing the above companies and work on the principle to not keep all your eggs in one basket.

Then again without self praise it could be us (Plodit). We were already runner up for best online business start up 2010. Its all exciting times!

The next Book Depository has to be the Leicester Brothers as predicted by many publishers. Snazal, wotnix and Bangzo.

Publishers now need to start grooming and preparing the above companies and work on the principle to not keep all your eggs in one basket.

Then again without self praise it could be us (Plodit). We were already runner up for best online business start up 2010. Its all exciting times!

Vulcan Road, Leicester, must be a sea of books eh plodit? Or are you Snazal as well or wotnix or Bangzo or can't make your mind up?

I believe you may mean Kalahari.net

I agree with a previous poster, I liked the Book Depository because it wasn't Amazon. Complete sell outs!

To everyone asking "where do we shop now?", how about seeking out a local bookshop who will happily order in any book you wish? Ther e are plenty of us around, and we can get in any title.

If, of course, you're asking where you can get a ridiculously large discount from a company other than Amazon, then yes - you'll have a hard time.

I live in a rural area in Canada where the nearest bookseller is an hour away. BD was my salvation in a town of farmers and ranchers.

Maybe where you live but the reason I shop online is I was getting sick of the local bookshops telling me:
1) they couldn't order the books I wanted
2) It wasn't in their system.
3) Taking 6 weeks to get a book that took BD about 2 weeks.
4) Refusing to tell me what the cost is and then jacking up RRP prices and saying it is the exchange rate (even though the Aussie dollar is going up)
5) Looking at me like its all just too much trouble for them to order it.
6) After finally getting the book, telling me that its stuck somewhere in their back office and they have to dig it out (take another week). The only reason I knew they had it was because they ordered extra copies and put it on the shelf so I took one of those instead.

So no I will never order books like that again unless I am forced too.

Agree with the others is a real pity
Can not see the Competition Commission doing anything but it takes out Amazon's largest online competitor. They were great as they sold many US sourced books which Amazon.co.uk did not bother stocking.

Does this now mean Play.com or Tesco are the next largest online bookseller after Amazon. However they only sell "normal" UK sourced titles. Not counting Waterstones as their website is rubbish and they have higher limits before free postage.

Agree it sounds like the owners wanting the cash or not being able to fund the company going forward, whilst Amazon are happy to pay to remove another competitor.

It really will only be Amazon and the supermarkets left in a year or so. Then the publishers have only themselves to blame for the lack of competition.

With an attitude like that, it's no surprise you are an anonymous poster! With this takeover, you're going to get spanked by Amazon anyway, because they will be the only game in town. Bend over!!

Ahhhh - the arrogance of copyright.. Don't you see the dangers of this takeover? - You'll get thumped, like dairy farmers and supermarkets - only there's no EU subsidy for publishers.

It will be interesting to see how long the retail 50% ++ discounts offered by Amazon are continued - with their biggest 'competitor' out of the way there's no need to give the stock away. Maybe that's why Amazon have bought BD - from the savings anticipated from the reduction in discounts to customers?

Speaking of discounts, anyone care to guess how long it'll be before the letters start arriving from AMZ at publishers who supply TBD at a more reasonable discount level than the AMZ Advantage scheme, advising that they will be "harmonising" all terms of trade henceforth? I think we can all see where this is going.

Amazon are like the Borg in Star Trek - as soon as you start to become a threat, you're assimilated.

"Resistance is futile"!

(Could be an opportunity for waterstones.com to pull its finger out)

Sad sad news.

Can't help but agree that this is a disaster. TBD did seem to be the best hope for challenging Amazon's market dominance of the entire trade and in particular the online portion of the trade. They also brought interesting innovation with them that will no doubt now disappear. I guess amazon also saw them as their major threat hence the takeover.

Not necessarily, think Lovefilm and AbeBooks - http://futurebook.net/content/amazon-washes-away-book-depository

Well this explains why lately I, living in the US, have been unable to get UK only titles from TBD. Sad and such a shame.

To Tom
Yes when I'm in England or Ireland I use my local bookshops but I live most of the time in Spain and have to do my shopping online - therefore where would you suggest I get my books? Amazon use a courier service in Spain that cant deliver to my house and refuses to leave things at my post box in the local post office - so I switched to Book Depository who will deliver to my post box within 5 days of my order. I wonder if that will still happen.

Also I use Book Depository to send books to my Grandchildren and family who still live in England and Ireland - I dont think you and other retailers will do that will you? Or maybe you will if you have a web presence where I can order.

This is the sort of thing that happens when you abolish the monopolies commission - Did you know that Amazon have also joined a consortium with Microsoft et al so their stock is on the up. If I was a conspiracy theorist I'd say someone was trying to control what we are allowed to know/read and our communications.

Hello, Lekilei, I scrolled down for what seemed like miles before I found you expressing my chief worry about this takeover: all the information about what we read, or what books we buy, becomes concentrated into a single online entity, and where might we go from there? You've mentioned the control of what we're allowed to read: it's already a problem (in my opinion) in publishing, with the loss of diversity as little publishers are swallowed by big ones; besides this, there remains the possibility of some very large entity appointing itself censor. But in retail, with the innumerable books that already exist in and out of print, the only way to be an effective censor is to hold sway over the whole scene. Entrust all the selling to one company and the chance is there.
You make a good case for using online retailers. Unlike you, most people are able to get books from a local store, but don't. They think we will rip them off just because we're mean, and they don't think to ask if we'd maybe send something to a faraway friend. But, as a longtime ex-pat, I find that sending things abroad is second nature.

Does anyone wish to bet that the unsustainable "free global delivery" is both the reason for BD getting out and the reason for Amazone snuffing BD out?

I buy by Amazon and TBD... I have no complain about both of them, but TBD has books that I can't find in Amazon, just that...
Let's wait and see waht happens to the wonderful TBD service.

Lol to everyone on here surprised. TBD was an Amazon puppet for a few years, run by someone who helped start Amazon, did exactly the same thing but cut a few pence off the price and then reaped the rewards... open your eyes people, this was inevitable, the fat cats only want to get fatter they don't care about anything else and they certainly don't give a **** about books!

Stealth Starbucks anyone ?

IMO The Book Depository's entire business model depended on this. Selling books alone to take on Amazon was never going to yield any kind of long term gain. But if you could just steal enough market share to be a big enough thorn in the side of Amazon for them to notice, then you would have the opportunity to cash in, made much easier if you are already 'connected'.

Now if Amazon had any sense, they would make sure when Andrew Crawford leaves Amazon again, to sign an non competing agreement for X number of years, otherwise he could just go out and do it all over again, unless of course, it is what Amazon has paid him to do all along - a la Stealth Amazon.

It's never been about books, it is money, it's always the money.

A very accurate analysis.

In a press release Tim Godfray said

Many people are sceptical about this deal and it's definitely a worrying progression for publishers (OMG imagine the marketing spend hike in a monopoly - sorry waterstones.com). However most consumers don't actually like a choice, they want:

i) reliable, fast, cheap delivery
ii) a good range
iii) to not have to set up another account on another website
iv) some kind of customer service
v) a well maintained easy to use website
vi) and most important, competitive pricing

For the most part, Amazon offers those things. Book Depository was a brave attempt at nicking some of that business, but I'd say they were due to hit a bit of a glass ceiling and I'd congratulate them on some shrewd business.

TBD model is built on free delivery which everyone agrees is probably unsustainable with rising aviation fuel costs and postal services re-evaluating their terms. And in-fact, if to save a few pence, you order a book from half way around the world and your conscience is ok with you personally taking none of the hit for the energy that it takes to deliver your book all that way and that you aren't supporting the booktrade in your local market then this move is a good thing, if only to help people think more about how they purchase. You should have to pay for international delivery but it should be pitched as an environmental cost, not a delivery charge, with some of the rev contributing to carbon reduction schemes.

Overall, it's going to be more important for publishers to connect with their consumers and be better at marketing. I'm a marketer in publishing, I came from retail, and I think publishers are crap at marketing (think author videos, billboard posters with a book jacket on, GIFT WITH PURCHASE - sweet lord). Publishers should just worry about making the consumers aware of their products and leave the retailers to try and convince consumers where to buy them.

I'd love to see a publisher be brave and stop spending with Amazon and spend the money on consumer marketing instead and see if there's a difference. If you are good at it and you've got a good author, there won't be.

I live in Australia where the book industry is in dire straits. We have had a major chain of booksellers collapse in the last couple of months (Borders and Angus & Robertson). My local bookshop has closed and the one near my workplace has also closed down. As I work in Sydney, there are other options but not close by. I use Book Depository all the time. Partly for the free shipping, I admit but also because the prices were cheaper than here, you could get hardback editions which hardly ever make their way to Australia. I also liked the range, to order through my local bookshop would most often take longer than via the internet. So what options are left to me now? A very sad day for all readers.

So what options are left to me now? its been bought. not shut down. do you think amazon has bought it to not use all the "good bits". only some1 on here mentioned adding a charge for delivery, not either company. and even if they do add a delivery charge, carbon charge whatever, it will still be where to get the cheapest item.

I am an indie in UK so i hope they add a delivery charge, and a carbon charge, and now they have bought their biggest competitor I hape they decide they dont need to discount so highly or so much across their range.

I doubt it, but one can always look at a half full glass- cos god we have to.

So what options are left to me now? its been bought. not shut down. do you think amazon has bought it to not use all the "good bits". only some1 on here mentioned adding a charge for delivery, not either company. and even if they do add a delivery charge, carbon charge whatever, it will still be where to get the cheapest item.

I am an indie in UK so i hope they add a delivery charge, and a carbon charge, and now they have bought their biggest competitor I hape they decide they dont need to discount so highly or so much across their range.

I doubt it, but one can always look at a half full glass- cos god we have to.

My 2c

How long will the Book Depository distribution hub be kept open. Amazon will have no need for it ? Job losses inevitable.

Agree publishers may well get demands for even higher discounts.

Post Office will be gutted at losing the international business.

Amazon may have eye on buying any or all of the following: Aphrohead, Play.com, Gardners, maybe even Business Post or similar domestic UK carrier.

Amazon can in theory now make sure BD is the cheapest vendor on Marketplace and ABE (owned by Amazon) if they drop the commissions on sales on these titles = all other sellers of new titles on these venues will struggle

Waterstones and retails booksellers must be feeling a little queasy although possible business opportunities exist by simply by not being Amazon

All i can think of for now...

Waterstones and retails booksellers must be feeling a little queasy..... no different. in fact on a bright side, if 2 become 1, its one less competitors site, and maybe the discount structure will lower.

i hope they buy the lot. then it definately will

The Book Depository managed to lose 2 orders I made (through Amazon) within 1 month and I had to use Amazon's A-to-Z claims service to even get an acknowledgement that I'd reported the books were weeks overdue.

There's a reason Amazon's number 1.

From a publishing point of view, TBD, though never huge for us, was our recmmended port of call for overseas customers because of their postfree delivery. But we were never pressed on discount, and our more obscure books were happily supplied without offputting notices saying they were out of stock for several weeks (ie don't bother) or could only be supplied in 4-6 weeks (ie don't bother, and we mean it) or had a "hard to source" surcharge (ie stop wasting our time by forcing us to get hold of single copies). I am very sorry they have gone into the Amazon mouth.

As an independent bookseller in France, I am secretly happy to see TBD get swallowed up by amazon, it is the publishers, small and large who have to learn that the small is beautiful philosophy, is the only way that we can continue on, in all aspects of bookselling and in all aspects of the planet as well. Networking is good, but bookshops can work together, in Paris, we had a huge drop of TLC from our publishers when Amazon opened its doors, but we knew that most of the publishers reps dragged their heels to the conglomerate, worried about hurting their friends the booksellers and wary of the pressure put on them by the demands that the distributor would make, because of the high cost of transportation between here and the states and england - amazon cant really offer competitive prices in France. TBD could because in fact they shipped for free, which is illegal here in France, but because they are shipping into France somehow it has been forgiven... a bit strange. So many people started buying from them instead of the local bookshops. Then the publishers reps started to focus on one or two bookshops in Paris rather than sharing the wealth, after one bookshop here went 'bankrupt', we had to pick up the bill so to speak, because the publisher reps could use this bookshop for why they had to be stricter with us, the smaller bookshops. The rules of bookselling have changed rapidly, (ten years ago we could return books as much as we liked - especially books one needs to return, like hardcovers that have come out as paperbacks, - now because the publishers are loosing out to the big distributors they have imposed harsh returns rights on the bookseller, and at the same time, transportation has become large and untenable. It is easier to order from Gardners in the Uk and Ingrams in the US than to order directly from the publishers, but then you restrict the choice you have as a bookseller. So publishers have to think about their role, not in the short term but in the long term. It is the publishers who need to rethink their philosophy of selling books to bookshos, the consumer can be educated on the outside.