The decision by Sainsbury’s Supermarkets to stop online sales of print books suddenly makes a lot more sense with the revelation that Amazon UK is no longer offering free delivery on smaller print book orders either. According to information on the Amazon UK website, as highlighted by The Bookseller, under the heading “About Changes to FREE Super Saver Delivery,” Amazon states that “from 7 January 2014, all UK orders fulfilled by Amazon with a total value of at least £10 [$16.40] will qualify for FREE Super Saver Delivery. Previously, the £10 threshold applied to all our product categories except Books, Music, Film & TV, Blu-ray, Software or PC & Video Games.”
Yes, if you read that back over twice to cut out the customer relations backtalk, you’ll digest that what it’s actually saying is that all UK orders fulfilled by Amazon with a total value of less than £10 will not qualify for FREE Super Saver Delivery.
Perhaps the shift to ebook purchases makes the residual traffic for print books less and less economically attractive, even to the industry leader. Perhaps Amazon, like Sainsbury’s, simply decided that the profit margins on online ebook sales are far more attractive. The Bookseller speculates that this could be an attempt to push UK customers to sign up for Amazon Prime, which nets Amazon UK £49 ($80.33) per year and “includes Unlimited One-Day Delivery with no minimum order size.”
Whichever applies, this could be the best New Year present that Amazon could have given to Britain’s struggling independent bookshops. The much-reviled practice of showrooming – if it even existed – may become a thing of the past if buyers have to fork out delivery charges to get their single copies online via Amazon UK. And Amazon’s print book domination starts to look a little less impregnable if it has to make a concession like this.