UK indies: 'We won't stock Kindle'

UK indies: 'We won't stock Kindle'

Independent booksellers on both sides of the Atlantic have reacted with suspicion towards news of Amazon’s offer to US indies on Kindle e-readers.

The company's newly revealed "Amazon Source" retail deal allows independent booksellers to stock Kindle devices and receive a 10% commission on e-book sales bought with the e-reader for two years after selling the hardware. Independent retailers can also opt to buy the hardware at a higher discount at first instead of receiving the commission on e-book sales, if they prefer.

While Amazon Source has only launched in the US so far, many anticipate its future arrival in the UK given the company’s existing partnershipwith Waterstones.

In the US, independents were sceptical. American Booksellers Association c.e.o. Oren Teicher said: "Given Amazon's aggressive corporate tactics and their longstanding strategy to avoid the collection of sales tax, we don't see this new program as being at all credible."

In the UK, Sheila O’Reilly, owner of Dulwich Books in London, said: “I think I would search my heart and find that morally I just couldn’t stock the Kindle. I know Amazon employ lots of people in this country but they also have head offices in Luxembourg and Ireland for tax avoidance reasons and I couldn’t ignore that. If it was more of a level playing field between Amazon and independents then maybe I would think about it, but it isn’t.”

Tim Walker, owner of Walkers bookshops, said: “One would have to ask the question ‘Why would Amazon want to take that step? Where is the motivation?’ Because at the end of the day, they haven’t really ever given a stuff about everyone else in the book trade . . . My worry would be that by selling Kindle devices, we would be converting customers to using Amazon for their physical book sales as well as e-books. I would be very reluctant to jump in.”

David Dawkins, manager at Pages of Hackney bookshop in East London, said he would not choose to stock the Kindle. “Amazon has made a point of aggressively diverting people’s habit of using the high street. The company has made it clear that is what they  want to do and I would be very surprised if this signals a change in policy towards  independent retailers and the high street,” he said. “I also wouldn’t want our customers to think that we were doing trade with ‘the bad guys’. I think we may lose quite a lot of  respect if our customers thought we were sleeping with the enemy.” Dawkins added that he would prefer to send people to the National Book Tokens e-book site which he said was “well-designed” and offered a 17.5% discount on e-book sales.

However, Jane Streeter, owner of The Bookcase in Lowdham, said it was “inevitable” Amazon would offer to partner with indies after e-book retailer Kobo had offered a similar service. “We will consider it when the time comes,” she said.

Amazon's 10% commission figure is believed to be slightly higher than the figure Kobo currently offers independent booksellers in the UK and also higher than that offered by Gardners’ Hive network to indies. However, the National Book Tokens e-book platform offers independents the highest commission on e-books of all the platforms at 17.5%.