Paris anti-Amazon initiative spreads its wings

Paris anti-Amazon initiative spreads its wings

The Pledge of Independents, an Amazon boycott campaign launched by The Abbey Bookshop in Paris this month, is spreading.

Three more booksellers have signed up to the scheme—two in the US and one in Scotland—asking customers and authors to promise not to buy books from Amazon or affiliates and to favour indies instead. The three are Word Power Books in Edinburgh, the Clinton Book Shop in New Jersey, and The Book Tavern in Augusta, Georgia. A second outlet in New Jersey should follow.

Canadian-born Brian Spence, who founded The Abbey Bookshop in the Latin Quarter in 1989, launched the Pledge at the shop’s 25th anniversary party. Before dancing in the streets until 2 a.m., more than 100 guests were present to chant the pledge in unison: “In an effort to preserve the free and widest circulation of information and ideas, as well as the diversity, vitality and integrity of an increasingly uncompetitive and dehumanised book trade, I pledge to buy my books mostly from independent bookshops and, above all, without resorting to Amazon or its affiliates.”

About 40 people signed the pledge on the night, and another 150 have done so since, Spence told The Bookseller. In return, signatories are given a loyalty card, a 5% discount off publishers’ retail prices (the maximum allowed in France under the 1981 Lang fixed-book price law), concessions such as deeper discounts on used books, and help with finding alternative online vendors to Amazon.

Bricks and mortar outlets taking the pledge in countries with no legal constraints are expected to offer price discounts of at least 5%.  

“Almost all our customers, most of whom are French, say they have been boycotting Amazon anyway, and many are prepared to go on record to say so,” Spence said. “That is very satisfying for a bookseller to hear.” The next step might be to set up an interconnected network among the booksellers participating in the scheme to allow loyalty cards to be interchangeable, he added.

Paris city hall figures suggest that the Latin Quarter has lost more than half its bookshops over the past 25 years, an Abbey Bookshop statement said—however, France still has one of the most extensive networks of independents globally. “It is alarming that publishers are afraid to speak out about Amazon for fear of reprisals, as were authors until very recently,” Spence said.