Note: I just looked over and noticed UK native Paul St. John Mackintosh had posted his article on this same topic less than five minutes before I finished writing this one. I don’t want to waste the time and effort I put in, so I’m posting it anyway.
Some UK bookshop owners are decidedly grumpy that a number of publishers’ and authors’ websites feature direct links to Amazon or other on-line booksellers rather than linking to their local independent bookshops instead. In an op-ed for The Bookseller, bookshop owner Keith Smith complains:
Many of these are authors who, when asked, will say they like nothing better than to support the independent sector, they couldn’t imagine life without their local bookshop, everyone should do all in their power to save it as a much-loved institution at the heart of the community, and much more along similar lines. But words need to be matched by deeds if they are to make a difference.
In response, a number of publishers and authors have started changing the links on their sites, replacing or adding links to a variety of sources including find-your-local-bookshop sites. Some authors defend the practice as being what their publishers or webmasters wanted them to do, or that it was the simplest thing to link to one source rather than trying to figure out how to link to multiple sites at once.
Author Alison Weir noted to The Bookseller:
The fact remains that publishers can shift large quantities of books through Amazon, W H Smith, Waterstones and the supermarkets, which are their main clients. Amazon also pays authors on their associates programme fees based on the number of books sold. Authors do have a living to make and Amazon can provide a great source of income which, sadly, independent book shops could not possibly meet.
She does say it would be good if Amazon could be forced to pay local taxes, rather than using a loophole to avoid it, so their prices would be closer to local shops’.
Say what you will about Amazon, they do know how to give people incentive to push sales to them. I imagine that getting paid twice for selling a single book—once for royalties, once for an associate referral—looks rather good to authors, who have a hard enough time eking out a living on their royalties already.
I would also suggest that bookshop owners may be barking up the wrong tree if they think that forcing publishers to link to them rather than Amazon will help win consumers’ hearts and minds back over to them. If someone is a regular Amazon shopper, as Amazon gives people incentives to be, he will probably be inclined to shop Amazon no matter where the site links—he’ll just go to his address bar and type in “www.amazon.co.uk” rather than click the affiliate link. The book still comes from Amazon, but the site loses out on the extra affiliate revenue.