Publishers Weekly whipped up a storm on Wednesday with news of a deal between Amazon and the LA Times Festival of Books, resulting in calls for the publishing community to boycott the event. But Publishers Weekly is ignoring the real scandal.
Amazon isn’t listed as a sponsor or scheduled to appear. The “deal” in question pertains to the LA Times Festival of Books signing up as an Amazon affiliate so they can earn a percentage from sales made through their website. Mary Williams, of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, complained that sales will be “siphoned away” by Amazon.
I’m not so sure that charge sticks. Either someone at the event buys the book in front of them or they don’t. I can’t see how the festival website being an Amazon affiliate changes that. If readers are going to spot a book, then check the price on Amazon (or wherever) to see if they can get a better deal, they would do that whether the website had affiliate links to Amazon or not.
Many independent booksellers have complained that the organizers should have partnered with IndieBound instead. That’s a better point, but perhaps the organizers had a valid reason to choose Amazon instead. I don’t know their logic, but I can think of three compelling possibilities:
- Amazon’s affiliate scheme is much more lucrative. Not only does it pay a higher percentage than IndieBound, Amazon also sells a wide range of other products, many much more expensive than books. I’m an Amazon affiliate, and even though I only link to books, I make more per year from non-book items – more than doubling my affiliate income.
- Many readers might not know who or what IndieBound is. They may feel more comfortable giving their credit card details to a retailer they are familiar with (indeed, with one-click purchasing they won’t have to get out their credit card at all). In e-commerce, if you give the customer reason to hesitate there’s a fair chance you’ll lose them.
- Amazon has a much larger selection. Many indie bookstores don’t sell e-books, choose not to stock self-published paperbacks, or sell anything that comes from Amazon Publishing. Perhaps the organizers wanted to partner with someone who stocked all appearing authors’ work (like Lee Goldberg, who has digital-only titles, self-published books, and some published with Amazon’s imprints).
It could have been any of those reasons. It could have been all of those reasons. But Publishers Weekly didn’t explore any of that, instead lining up a string of indie booksellers to attack the decision. The reaction was predictable:
The LA Book Festival is a place where book publishers, booksellers, and book lovers come together as a community to celebrate their shared values. Those values are far removed from Amazon’s. Giving Amazon such a prominent role is, to say the least, inappropriate and insensitive.
Give me a break. This is the same LA Times Festival of Books that has been welcoming Author Solutions for years without a peep. And aside from scamming writers in general, Author Solutions has also been scamming authors at the event. Continue reading