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There are times when Amazon just makes me crazy.

Don't get me wrong, when we moved into this house out in the desert at the very end of the food chain, Amazon was a life saver. As a source of books it was a godsend. There were no local bookstores (other than used) within a 70 mile radius. I am a voracious reader and owner of books. With no where to shop.

My first order with Amazon brought me not just books, but a complimentary travel mug. That is how long I have been shopping with them. It was not my intent to contribute to yet another monopolistic retailer, but as their inventory expanded, so did my purchases. We joined Amazon Prime as soon as it was offered. Shopping up here was restricted to a small family run department store that I loved, a poorly stocked K-Mart and a Wal-Mart, both almost twenty miles away. I wouldn't shop at WalMart, couldn't find anything at K-Mart, and loved buying what I could at Benson Bros., but they soon closed their doors once WalMart was established.

So Amazon Prime became my alternative to the long drive down into Palm Springs. The prices were good, the service was incredible, and delivery only took two days. It was everything that a consumer could want from a retailer.

As a delighted owner of one of the first Kindle DXs, most of my reading was digital. I wasn't too worried about Amazon becoming the behemoth that it is today; they were simply the only ones offering a wide assortment of digital titles.

Since those early days, I have been torn between the service loving consumer and the political progressive concerned with a single company cornering the market on literature. Lately, the political progressive is gaining strength in the argument, because literature is just a big word for ideas.  

Amazon makes it hard because they work at being consumer friendly. Their return policy is incredibly easy to use, their prices are good, and in my state they are finally collecting the sales taxes that our state government needs to function. Granted, they are doing so under duress, but they are doing so.

They have added Whispersync to their ebooks, enabling those who desire them access to digital audiobooks at rockbottom prices. The new First Look Program gives away a free book every month to Prime members a full month before it is published and available to the general public. Amazon Instant Video offers TV programs & Movies to download, many free to Prime members. Their new MatchBook program offers eBooks of many eligible Print editions at very low prices. They have repeatedly listened to what their customers wanted and have done all that they could to fill those desires.

But at the same time, they have been expanding and they have been busy eliminating their competition in a variety of ways. The most obvious is outright purchase. And according to Wikipedia, they have acquired, among others:
  • 1998: PlanetAll, a reminder service; Junglee, an XML-based data mining startup; Bookpages.co.uk, a UK online book retailer, which became Amazon UK on October 15, 1998.
  • 1999: Internet Movie Database (IMDb);Alexa Internet, Accept.com, and Exchange.com
  • 2003: Online music retailer CDNow. (By 2011, the web site cdnow.com was defunct and in use by a different company.)
  • 2004: Joyo.com, a Chinese e-commerce website.
  • 2005: BookSurge, a print on demand company, and Mobipocket.com, an eBook software company. CreateSpace.com (formerly CustomFlix), a distributor of on-demand DVDs. CreateSpace has since expanded to include on-demand books, CDs, and video.
  • 2006: Shopbop, a retailer of designer clothing and accessories for women.
  • 2007: dpreview.com, a digital photography review website based in London; Brilliance Audio, the largest independent publisher of audiobooks in the United States.
  • 2008: Audible.com; Fabric.com; Box Office Mojo; AbeBooks; Shelfari; (including a 40% stake in LibraryThing and whole ownership of BookFinder.com, Gojaba.com, and FillZ); Reflexive Entertainment,a casual video game development company.
  • 2009: Zappos,an online shoe and apparel retailer; Lexcycle; SnapTell, an image matching startup; Stanza, a rival ebook reader to Amazon's Kindle.
  • 2010: Touchco.; Woot; Quidsi; BuyVIP; Amie Street.
  • 2011: LoveFilm; The Book Depository; Pushbutton; Yap;
  • 2012: Kiva Systems; Teachstreet; Evi
  • 2013: IVONA Software; GoodReads; Liquavista

Willing to settle for a tiny profit margin, making up for it in sheer volume, Amazon has been able to underprice most brick and mortar retailers, resulting in the loss of hundreds of independent and big chain bookstores.

But its success in the digital book market, which in fairness, it created, has perhaps done the most damage to the local bookseller. Completely cut out of the market, many signed up with Kobo, originally a Canadian company now owned by a Japanese firm.

Independent booksellers around the world are selling Kobo devices and ebooks. Their market share in Canada was 46% in January of 2012 but it still remains in the single digits in the US. Kobo offers a 5% commission on each device sold and 8-18% commission on eBook sales.

Apparently even that is too much for Amazon to tolerate, or perhaps Amazon sincerely wishes to lend a helping hand to struggling bookstores. Either way, they announced this week yet another new program, Amazon Source, a way for bookstores, under the Bookseller Program to sell Amazon Kindle devices for a 6% commission and earn a 10% commission for each eBook their customers buy from them. Or, they can sell the devices under the General Retailer Program for a 9% commission and reap no commission on future eBook sales - think Best Buy or WalMart. Oh, and both programs also get a 35% discount on Kindle accessories.

We created Amazon Source to empower independent bookstores and other small retailers to sell Kindle e-readers and tablets in their stores. We crafted two unique programs with two different kinds of stores in mind, but retailers in select states can choose whichever program they prefer.
Maybe they are trying to reach out a helping hand to local bookstores. Or attempting to fight off another competitor. And Kobo is a major competitor, not here in the States, but they are a growing business in the rest of the world. According to Jeremy Greenfield, writing for Forbes back in August of this year,
... I get the sense that Kobo is picking up momentum in the U.S., where it is thought to have about 3% market share, and, especially, around the world, where it is either the No. 1 or No. 2 ebook retailer in many countries, including Canada and Japan. Kobo now has 16 million readers, up 4 million from the end of last year, a year in which it saw its sales double.
Personally I think that Amazon also sensed the growing momentum and are taking this step in response. Not simply to maintain their US market share, but to get ready to take on Kobo in the rest of the world. India, Brazil, China - there are a lot of places markets out there that Amazon does not yet control.

I guess this means I will have to buy and read the latest book about Amazon, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. I'll let you know what I learn.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:






DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
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Sundays
2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
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Sundays
2:00 PM Bibliophile's Wish List Caedy
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Sundays
4:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid
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