Friday, December 09, 2011

Searching For A Solution

There's been a lot of chatter lately about Amazon's Dec 10th strike on independent retailers.

It has long been known that customers will walk into a bookstore (for example), browse contents, then go home and order the very same merchandise they were looking at from Amazon.

This week, Amazon announced that if customers used their price check app to scan an item in a retail store, it would give them up to $5 off the price of the item purchased on Amazon.

First, I should note that books aren't included in this promo and that it's not even an option in Canada.

But that being said, such as announcement will be booksellers understandable riled up. After all, Amazon has been kicking booksellers in the head for a dozen years. 

ABA put out a statement yesterday, a public letter to Jeff Bezos; a beautifully written post on the Advent Book Blog called Dear Amazon: You Really, Really Suck generated a lot of buzz. And various other articles about it have appeared.

Let's face it. Even though the $5 offer isn't really all that good (just part of many different "sleight of hand" and "smoke and mirrors" effects that Amazon likes to play, it has been long known by booksellers, and now documented in a survey that 39% of people who bought books from Amazon said they first looked at the book in a local bookstore.

Let's face it. Amazon does one thing amazingly well. They have a world class search engine.

Even as a bookseller, I'll use Amazon to find the book I knew the customer is looking for so that I could drop the ISBN into my own inventory system (which has, no matter where I've been a bookseller, has ever been so robust)

So why not turn things around, make a preemptive strike and offer customers a discount off any book that they first found on Amazon, but end up buying from your store's stock?  I'd suggest perhaps 20% as a good starting place, and adjust up or down to your comfort level. All they have to do is bring in a printed screen shot of the book on Amazon to your cash with the book from your store's inventory, and they get the discount, no questions asked.

The reality is (assuming most books have a 40% margin for booksellers), that if you don't sell this book by the end of December 2011, you'll be returning it to the publisher anyway. And taking a 20% hit off the margin at the retailer's most lucrative time of the year is, in my calculations, a much better prospect than the costs of returning the book during the year's most lowest volume month for book sales.

In any case, on Saturday Dec 10th I plan on doing an Amazon search and then printing off the screen shot, then bringing it to a local bookstore.  As I purchase the book, I'm going to make sure I inform the cashier or bookseller that I used Amazon to find the book, but then came to buy it locally in my own community from a retailer who pays local taxes, hires local people and supports my local economy.

I'm not expecting a discount for doing this - but it'll sure feel good making the gesture.

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