After UK bookshop owners complain about Amazon links, publishers and authors look into more inclusive linking

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.

3 Comments on After UK bookshop owners complain about Amazon links, publishers and authors look into more inclusive linking

  1. I’ll soon be revising my long-neglected website to help sell my books. Rest assured, I don’t have any bias. I’d love to add links to almost anyone who’ll sell my books wherever they are in the world. But, as the article notes, coming up with a host of links is a real headache.

    Even Amazon doesn’t help. It is possible to use a book’s ISBN to contrive a link to where a book is on their stores in each country, but it’s a hassle and results in a long list of links just for the paperback version. Add in hardback and Kindle versions and the list grows far too long. Add to that links for other online retailers as well as look-up services for local stores and you’ve got a real mess. Way too many links. Way too confusing.

    About a year ago, I thought I’d found the answer. Someone claimed to have created a pull-down-menu driven, multiple-linking service funded by associate fees. But when I checked, that proved not so. If I supplied the full http link for each online store, his website would use that and tack on his associate number, earning him money for doing almost nothing. Sorry, I told him, but if I have to come up with the entire link, I want the associate fees for myself.

    This is ridiculous. A book’s ISBN uniquely identifies it for virtually every online and brick-and-mortar retailer on the planet. Why hasn’t someone created a Google-map like service that could be inserted into an author or publisher’s webpage. The linking would be easy for the webpage designer to create–simply pass along the ISBN. And it would allow would-be buyers to make selections and locate the retailer they want without cluttering a webpage with dozens of links..

    And while I’d love to get all the associate fees from that linking, I’d be more than happy to split them with whoever creates such a handy linking service.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

  2. I’d be happy to link to local indy stores, but they’re not happy to stock my indy-published book, so why should I?

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