kindlesourceRemember the Amazon/Waterstones partnership deal I mentioned last year, in which Amazon let the bookstore chain sell Kindles and take a commission on e-books? And the other e-reader/e-book deals that UK independent bookstores were considering?

Well, it turns out Amazon is finally bringing something similar to these shores. Amazon has announced a new program called Amazon Source that will allow bookstores to

    • Buy Kindle devices at a 6% discount from the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price.
    • Buy Kindle accessories at a 35% discount from the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price.
    • Earn a 10% commission on the price of every e-book purchased from customers’ Kindle devices (subject to terms and conditions).

It turns out that the 10% commission only lasts two years from the purchase of the Kindle—something mentioned in Amazon’s press release for the program, but not spelled out anywhere on the Kindle Source website itself that I could find.

Alternately, “general retailers” can forego the 10% cut of every e-book in favor of a 9% rather than a 6% discount. The commission only applies to books, not other media.

It’s also worth noting that the bookstore version with the 10% commission is only available to stores that are wholly located in states where Amazon can offer its affiliate program without fear of being sales taxed. Bookstores with any branches in the 26 states that have passed affiliate sales tax laws (such as my own Missouri) would have to use the “General Retail” option.

It’s hard to imagine many independent bookstores being willing to sup with the devil—the very company who threatens their business by offering books at such low margin that they can’t compete, or selling used books right alongside new ones. Certainly a lot of bookstores have announced their unwillingness to carry books from Amazon’s publishing imprints for that very reason. Why would they want to help the company that’s putting them out of business in any other way? (One bookstore owner, contacted back in June, had pretty much the expected reaction.)

And even if Amazon’s reputation weren’t a barrier, a 10% cut of an e-book sale is a poor replacement for the 50% retail markup they could get from selling a paper copy. (Though on the other hand, how many paper copies are they likely to sell to people who want e-books? And that 10% would come from any book bought anywhere for the next two years, as long as it was bought through that device.)

Of course, it’s no skin off Amazon’s nose either way. They’re not exactly likely to go out of business if independent bookstores don’t come on board. It’s possible at least some independent bookstores, looking at the e-book revolution starting to pass them by anyway, might consider that a life preserver is a life preserver no matter who throws it.

(Found via The Digital Reader.)


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