Book Depository Closing
What an odd and peculiar story and history Book Depository has.
Consumer habits are an extremely powerful thing.
In the 90's we used to go to our local bookstores to pick up our favourite stories, novels, and books. Then the big-box bookstores (Chapters) came to town, with their sofas and coffees letting us sit and read and browse - like a library - before purchasing our books – or not purchasing at all.
We saw the demise of the small independent bookshops.
Amazon usurped these big-box bookstores, forcing their hand to migrate more and more towards non-book products.
Then a former Amazon employee started an online bookstore that shipped worldwide for free. The Book Depository again changed consumer's habits in 2004. Habits changed again in 2010 with Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook in the form of e-books. The doom-and-gloom and death and end of physical books was preached.
Amazon couldn't compete with The Book Depository. So, in 2011, Amazon outright purchased The Book Desporitory.
And habits changed...for the worse.
Now Amazon has announced, will be closing in late April 2023 (this month).
But oddly enough, this news seems to have slipped unnoticed under the radio with barely a whisper on social media or most news outlets. Hell, it only come to my attention as an associate mentioned it to me.
Why? Is this good or bad news for the book, author, and publishing industries?
I can't say I have the answers to all these questions, but I can definitely speculate and share some of my personal experiences and perspectives.
The supply chain challenges during the restrictions and lockdowns of Covid-19 created significant delays and unhappy and disappointed customers.
Amazon said themselves, they're cutting costs. And I suspect it's from Prime's multi-billion-dollars-plus loss over The Rings of Power and a desperate corporate attempt to recoup, alongside pandering to hate-mongering politics, but that's a topic for another time.
But is the closure of Book Depository good or bad?
From my own experience, I would say it is good news.
Habits changed...for the worse.
Just recently one of my authors released the second book of her series. And every time you looked up the first book on Amazon, it was there for somewhere between $ 37.00 to $39.00. (It is supposed to be $ 19.99). A little bit of digging discovered a third party on Amazon selling this title. Yes, Book Depository. And interestingly enough, their entry would always show up first.
Reported it to Amazon and their response was that they couldn't do anything because it was a third party (yet, somehow, Book Depository is owned by Amazon, acquired in 2011), and that I'd have to contact them directly....which I did.
After some back and forth, they ultimately told me I would have to have this book's publisher contact them directly and tell them as much. I AM this book's publisher.
Then the story changed to double checking whether the title was available through extended sales venues or other distributors, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. The runaround began.
I did two things. One: I delisted it from Barns & Noble as a print-on-demand title (which I'm sure is where they were getting it from and marking it up) and Two: I threatened legal action. To be honest, I don't know which avenue got them to take it down, but take it down they (eventually) did.
A second title (a recent award-winning anthology), also listed at $19.99 yet showing up at $27-and-change (also via Book Depository) disappeared when I took it down from Barnes & Noble.
Ultimately there is nothing illegal about legitimately purchasing books through the various POD channels (ie Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), but to mark them up (well above their regular retail prices), resell at a profit, and be given preferential rankings on the platforms...? They're crooked. Amazon washes their hands behind claims of a third party vendor.
I cannot help but wonder how often this happens to others, specifically self-published authors with little recourse, resources, or experience.
Book Depository Closes its doors on April 26th, 2023, and none too soon. As a publisher I am glad to see them gone.
But could this be a sign of the times; a forecast of what the future holds? There has been changes. As I have previously mentioned in the August 2022 article, A Treacherous and Dangerous Landscape, "...floorspace dedicated to knick-knacks, clothes, comfy blankets, and anything-but-books, has been growing each and every time I’ve visited. I’m not exactly sure what the propositions are, but I suspect they’re approaching 50%," has come to fruition.
Only 2 months after the publication of this article, Chapters Rideau closed its doors (Sept. 29/22), yet promising it's new Indigo location to open, saying, "The new store...which will include a curated assortment of books but also more lifestyle products and inspiring displays."
I take this as the acknowledgement that they have now passed that 50% mark, becoming a knick-knack shop which happens to also sell books.
So, what do these events all have to do with one another?
Directly, nothing. But I do believe it is a sign of the times. The book retail and publishing industries have been in a state of change and flux for some time now. And as with all businesses and industries post-Covid, forced restructure and revisiting one's business model is upon us all.
Their closure confirms that consumer habits change, or are forced to change. There are precautionary tales here.
One: Innovation should never be faux pas. Just as one business model embraces a drastic change that will level previous industry's models, so too will this be inflicted upon you should you not adapt and change. Ride the wave, or be under it.
Two: You can predict and attempt to match consumer wants and needs, but you never dictate their reality. Attempted to do otherwise is akin to lying. Falsifying information, ratings, and rankings is simply bad business. (And yes, there is suspicion that Amazon/Prime has done exactly this with the poor reviews of The Rings of Power). There's little reason to believe they'd go no further.
I believe this is our new realm of the changing literary landscape of the publishing industry. It is upon us. Whether we like it or not; whether we want it or not.
Habits change. I am beginning to see this new post-Covid world like the ashes of a severe forest fire. The old decrepit trees and their light stealing canopies burnt to the ground. Newer, healthier saplings are sprouting in the fertile aftermath.
Maybe we will see Chapters/Indigo/Coles move back towards a proper bookstore? Maybe we'll see the rise and return of our local independent bookshops?
I don't believe it's doom-and-gloom. Just change...and maybe change is a good thing.