Are E-Books Hurting Independent Bookstores?
What do Apple and Green Apple Books have in common, besides their fruity namesake? It’s not just that they are both located in California. Both have a lot riding on the e-book pricing battle that rages on between Amazon, publishers, the Justice Department and Apple.
You are probably familiar with Apple’s side of the story, but consider the situation from Green Apple Books’ point of view. This San Francisco-based independent bookstore–along with its counterparts across the country–faces a seismic shift in the publishing industry on which it depends, no matter what the outcome.
Before the battle for e-book prices began, independent bookstores could sell e-books for the same price as Amazon. In other words, indies could stay in the game by remaining competitive. But now, indies must rely on customer loyalty alone because they can no longer offer competitive e-book prices. DC-based Politics & Prose appealed to its customers to write to the Department of Justice to share concerns about the impact of the lawsuit on the bookselling industry.
Times were already tough for independent booksellers, as their customers increasingly chose digital over paper. And it seems that indies are getting hit from every direction by e-book-related woes.
Indie Bookstores Get Googled
Of all the e-book bullies, Google may turn out to be the worst. In April, Google announced that it would end its Google e-books reseller program starting next year. Through this program, independent bookstores could sell e-books through Google’s platform, providing them with a much-needed revenue stream to help withstand the turbulence of the changing publishing industry.
This move threatens the indies in another way because it is just another step towards consolidation in the book marketplace. In an effort to keep up with Amazon and Apple, Google is making moves to integrate more of its own services.
While integration makes sense for Google, indie bookstores have fewer cards to play in a risky game they are in danger of losing.
The Digital Reading Revolution Takes Its Toll
Now that indies must scramble to find a new e-book supplier to replace Google, they are stuck with mostly print products and expensive e-books. The DOJ’s recent moves are paving the way for Amazon to monopolize e-book sales. While Apple and its publishing partners struggle in court, Amazon is free to keep e-book prices low, in an effort to drive
customers to buy Kindles, only to raise prices once competitors are out of the picture.
Is Amazon becoming the Walmart of the book world? Just as Walmart has threatened mom and pop stores across America, Amazon puts independent bookstores at risk of being wiped off the small business map. After all, not only is it cheaper to purchase e-books on Amazon, but it is also just as easy as visiting you local bookseller’s website to make
Most of us imagine browsing aisles of local authors and long tail genres of books when we think about our local indie bookstore. But e-books have been contributing their fair share of revenue in recent years – they make up about 10 percent of sales for some independent sellers. As more readers turn to digital, e-books’ contribution to bottom lines will likely go
Independent bookstores are no strangers to hard times in a shifting economy. They’ve weathered the storms brought on by big box retailers, including dedicated bookstores like Barnes & Noble and the former Borders. But, will they be able to survive the coming onslaught of competition offered up by the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google?
Indie bookstores are an endangered species, and it is up to us – the readers – to be activists on behalf of these local literary sanctuaries if we do not want them to become extinct.