Moving on from Author Solutions scams, Penguin Random House has hit on another wheeze to attempt to convince the UK that it’s the put-upon little guy gamely squaring up to big bully Amazon, in the shape of the new book recommendation community site myindependentbookshop.co.uk. This freewheeling “independent” version of Goodreads asks: “When it comes to finding your next read, nothing beats a personal recommendation. So what if you could show off the books you love and share recommendations with friends, fellow bookworms and even authors – wherever they are. How?”
Actually, how readers would normally do it is via Goodreads, or by posting reviews on the Amazon online bookstore. Oops – wrong answer. BAD, BAD. Those belong to Amazon. Not Penguin Random House. WRONG. BAD.
Myindependentbookshop.co.uk does suffer from certain grave limitations, though. As said, it’s not yours, it’s Penguin Random House’s. And it therefore is totally not independent.
The Guardian initially seems to have swallowed this scam just as it has every other anti-Amazon story, under the headline “Independent booksellers bolstered in fight against Amazon”. But one columnist at least saw through the whole charade. Myindependentbookshop.co.uk does state that “we’ve teamed up with Hive, to ensure that for every book you buy, a percentage of the sale is shared with a local, independent bookshop.” (Hive, by the way, is the online marketing platform of traditional books and media wholesaler Gardners, so hardly much independence there either.) But Anna Baddeley, in the Sunday Observer, quotes her local bookstore, Victoria Park Books, for its take on the exercise. “I was appalled by My Independent Bookshop,” said Victoria Park Books owner, Jo De Guia. “It’s a cynical attempt by a multinational to appear soft and fluffy.” As Baddeley explains, “if existing customers buy online at a discounted price, it will eat into her margins.”
In other words, myindependentbookshop.co.uk could directly, financially damage independent bookshops in the UK. All to bolster Penguin Random House. As Anna Baddeley says: “Want to help your local bookshop? Visit it and buy a book.” And avoid being conscripted into Big Publishing’s phony war against Amazon.