February 28, 2012

Day 8 of Amazon boycott of indie presses: Still no comment from New York, but indies rally in support


As we enter the second week of Amazon.com‘s boycott of ebooks from over 400 American, Canadian, and British independent presses distributed by the Independent Publishers Group (IPG) (see our earlier MobyLives report), and major industry figures at the big houses in New York — facing similar cutthroat demands from Amazon for their own annual contracts — remain silent, elsewhere in the nation there were signs of growing support from the indie community for their embattled colleagues at IPG.

Indie booksellers, in particular, seemed to be rising to the cause. While IPG got what can only be called tepid support from the American Booksellers Association (ABA) — ABA head Oren Teicher released a statement saying the organization “supported the principle that the reading public is better served when all titles — in all formats — are available to everyone” — the Independent Book Publishers Association issued a firmer rallying cry in a statement from President Florrie Binford Kichler, who said, “We commend IPG for its support of the independent publishing community and for shining the spotlight on this critical issue.”

Individual stores were taking more dramatic action than that. A Publishers Weekly story by Clare Kirch reports on “Matt Norcross, the owner of McLean and Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan, [who] is spearheading a campaign to support IPG and its client publishers.”

Norcross told PW Thursday that McLean and Eakin’s website will promote IPG books indefinitely with a banner prominently displayed on the store’s home page that links to a page featuring IPG titles. McLean and Eakin staffers intend to place Facebook and Tweet links to IPG titles as well. And, in an e-mail sent to bookseller contacts across the country, Norcross requested that they join him in supporting IPG.
“Anything you see on our website (banner, etc.) you many use, please,” Norcross wrote, “It would be great if we can get  many stores to do something like this, so feel free to pass this idea along to whoever you like.”
“Indies are committed to the written word,” Norcross told PW, “McLean and Eakin has never refused to sell a book based on our margin. Clearly, Amazon is only committed to Amazon.”

Candian online retailer Kobo has also decided to pay special attention to the books of at least one boycotted IPG publisher, ECW Press, which announced on its website that “Kobo has already stepped up and created a list of some of our ebook top sellers.” (You can view the list here.)

The literary social networking/retail site Copia forefronted a selection of IPG titles for sale while issuing a statement of support: “Recently, a very big bookseller has stopped selling eBooks from the Independent Publishers Group. Why? Allegedly because the scrappy, innovative IPG refused the bookseller’s ‘laws of the jungle’ pricing demands. Copia salutes IPG for protecting their authors.”

Meanwhile author Jim Hanasessay “Kicking the Amazon Habit” from last week has gone viral (see our earlier report), and seemed to inspire numerous other effected writers and booksellers to speak out — see this report from the beloved indie newsletter Shelf Awareness collecting more.

As to what’s next — well, despite all this it’s still hard to believe that Amazon is going to be forced into capitulation this time the way it was when it pulled Macmillan‘s buy buttons two years ago. And there have been no rumors of a Department of Justice investigation the way there was then.

And yet, and yet … most every other publisher in the country is in negotiation with Amazon right now on their own annual contract. Amazon’s behavior with IPG doesn’t make its demands any more workable for publishers, and the bullying could only make stalemated negotiations seem, well, pointless.

It’s not hard to believe that IPG’s stand — with growing industry support behind it — could begin to look like a good stand to take to more and more players. And the longer it goes on, the worse it makes Amazon look.

This isn’t over yet.


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.