In light of the current news coverage of a public relations and business battle taking place between the giant retailer Amazon and the giant book publisher, Hachette, we have some upcoming articles planned on the nuanced and sometimes paradoxical relationship between Amazon and small businesses.
Too often, when one big and powerful company is in a brawl with another big and powerful company, they attempt to gain the support of policy makers and regulators and public opinion by wrapping themselves up in what is best for “small business” (or, in the Amazon-Hachette case, “the authors”). Too often, however, it is small businesses that become the loser when giants collide. Are there also times when small businesses can find opportunity in the collision of those giants? This article points to one book industry analyst who argues it might. And, for the record, we don’t take sides when giants collide.)
If you saw the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” you know that a sub-plot of the 1998 film involved a big-box bookstore chain driving independent bookstores out of business. Today, a sequel to the film might show a down-on-his-luck Tom Hanks after his bookstore chain is forced out of business by Amazon.com — while Meg Ryan’s multi-location indie bookstores are thriving all over New York City. (Maybe, Posman Books?)
Rejecting the conventional wisdom that Amazon.com is the reason for the demise of the independent bookstore, book publishing observer Nate Hoffelder jokes that, “Amazon has killed a negative 70 indie bookstores in the past 9 months,” referring to the growth in membership of the independent bookstore trade group, the American Booksellers Association.
Why are new indie bookstores starting, and existing ones expanding?
According to Hoffelder and other observers, there are certain things an online bookstore can never do, and the demise of the bricks and mortar big box bookstores is making it easier for indies to compete with these advantages.
According to QZ.com, “There is very little difference between big, impersonal chain stores selling books and a big, impersonal website selling books,” writes Leo Mirani on the news website, Quartz. “Independent retailers, on the other hand, have a lot to offer that Amazon cannot: niche coffee, atmosphere, serendipitous discoverability of new titles and authors, recommendations from knowledgable staff, signings and events, to name a few.”