#AmazonFail – Alternatives?

The AmazonFail story was still rumbling along when I got up this morning. Explanations of what happened are starting to edge into conspiracy theory territory, and other people I’m sure are saying that any bookstore has a right to offer only the books it wants to offer.

Well that’s true, and it would be true for Amazon had they not become so phenomenally successful that people have stopped seeing them as a bookstore and have started to see them as the bookstore. So before people start clamoring for attacks on any web site that still has Amazon links (because you know, someone, somewhere is going to do so) let’s consider what alternatives we might have. After all, as Alethea Kontis wisely said on Twitter last night:

You don’t have to buy books from Amazon, but please don’t stop buying books.

The option I’m currently most interested in is IndieBound. This is an association of independent bookstores. It appears to be US-only at the moment, but that’s where most of my sales come from anyway. They have an affiliate scheme, just like Amazon, although I’m guessing that they only sell books. The scheme appears to be keyed off ISBN numbers, but I think Amazon uses ISBNs for their ASIN numbers in the book part of their store so a change-over might not be too difficult. Does anyone out there have any experience of using their scheme?

15 thoughts on “#AmazonFail – Alternatives?

  1. Yes, IndieBound is US only.

    As for other online booksellers, there’s also bn.com and borders.com.

    If it’s just books one is interested, as log as a company is using the ISBN database any book is available.

    Cost … shipping … that’s another matter.

    If one wants to do comparison shopping there’s: http://www.bookfinder.com

  2. That number at the end of the IndieBound URL is a 13 digit ISBN, which replaced 10 digit ISBNs on 1 January 2007. However, Amazon continues to use the 10-digit ISBN for its ASIN where it can. There’s a free converter at http://www.isbn.org/converterpub.asp where you plug in a 10 digit ISBN and it gives you the 13 digit equivalent. I’ve used this successfully to convert ISBNs for those of our clients who are small publishers.

  3. Roger:

    Thank you. That’s the sort of thing I was afraid of. I’m sure it is easy to covert, unless you have hundreds of books to look up in which case it quickly becomes a pain.

  4. IS BN.com part of the Amazon network? IF it isn’t, then work through barnes and Noble website for books. I still buy things in real book stores such as Barnes and Noble and FYE or Wal-mart for DVD’s.

  5. “IS BN.com part of the Amazon network?”


    You may be thinking of the time when Borders outsourced their web presence to Amazon – that has also ceased.

    Both B&N and Borders are independent of Amazon.com .

  6. I include links to Amazon, BN, Powells, Abe and a banner for BAMM.

    Record since May of last year.

    Amazon US- a few per month – including Kindle downloads which they do NOT pay referral commissions on.
    Amazon Canada – never
    Amazon UK – never
    Abe – never
    BN – never
    Powells – Never
    BAMM – never and they are threatening to close my account if I don’t sell something from their links soon.

    On top of that, I pay a small fortune every year to Amazon US for Prime (free shipping). I can’t afford to stop using Amazon for my own purchases….

    I can easily remove my Amazon links since I already have the others in place but I am afraid I’ll just spend hours and hours putting them back once Amazon fixes all this, – and they will – and people start using them again – and they will – .

  7. Mulluane:

    I fully expect this to be fixed once Amazon’s senior management gets back from the holiday weekend. I removed my Amazon links because it was easy to do do (and it will be equally easy to put them back).

    On the other hand, as an economist, I like to see competition, and if I can offer an alternative service to Amazon that helps specialist bookstores I would like to do so. This fuss has been a good kick up my backside to get me moving on it.

  8. FWIW:

    Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (Paperback)
    by Mary Roach – isbn 0393334791 currently has no sales rank numbers.

    I suspect the folks at W. W. Norton are also not amused.

    However, the audio version – isbn 1423316711 – still retains a sales rank number.

  9. I’m not sure Barnes & Noble or Borders is really a morally good alternative to Amazon. Remember how they drove our local bookstores out of business five years ago? And how do you know they’re not doing censorship too?

    It’s troubling. Amazon is so convenient, they can find you any book you might want and even sell it to you at a discount and ship it to your home. But they demand serious discounts from the publishers – does my buying a book from Amazon do the author or publisher any good? I have the impression that if I ask for a book at a brick-and-mortar store someone might get it in her head to order that book and stock it on shelves where someone else could serendipitously find it, but I don’t know with Amazon.

    A lot of publishers do online sales or can direct you to booksellers they like. If you know who publishes your favorite author, look for that website. Small Beer Press (http://www.lcrw.net/index.htm) has an online store. Tachyon Publications has a fine list of online and physical retailers here: http://www.tachyonpublications.com/bookstores.html

    Dreamhaven Books used to sell online but they seem to have suspended that – not sure for how long.

    I do _not_ recommend buying entertainment at WalMart – they have a proven history of making questionable decisions about what to stock with the excuse that certain things are not “family friendly”.

  10. In response to #12 erink:

    “I have the impression that if I ask for a book at a brick-and-mortar store someone might get it in her head to order that book and stock it on shelves where someone else could serendipitously find it, but I don’t know with Amazon.”

    Generally asking won’t get it ordered. If the store doesn’t stock the book, they will almost certainly be glad to order it for you. As for the store then stocking it, probably not, unless you can make a case for it.

    When I first started working in the retail book trade (I remember when the obscenely priced Dune was first put out in pb: 95 cents !!!! My god, that was just under the then minimum wage; but I digress) one of the things we always wanted for the store was a “store stretcher” … so many books, too few shelves. Every brick & mortar bookstore has to make choices as to what to stock.

    “A lot of publishers do online sales ”

    Indeedy. You will probably pay more, but the publisher gets to keep more. This is especially important for us “small presses”. I really like people purchasing direct: it helps fund my next venture into fiscal madness.

    “Dreamhaven Books used to sell online but they seem to have suspended that – not sure for how long.”

    Greg writes on his site: “Since the store is moving, we are taking the inventory off the website for now. Please check back in later to shop online. ” (http://www.dreamhavenbooks.com/sale.php) Tho it seems the Neil Gaimen side still functions

    And since Dreamhaven is now a one person operation … well, it’s a lot of work doing shipping and the like.

    As for Wal-Mart, selection, is there any? Other than James Patterson?

Comments are closed.