From The Bookseller:
Amazon will see how customers respond to its Seattle bricks and mortar store before considering opening any in the UK, its vice president of global public policy has said.
Paul Misener gave evidence at the department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BS) Digital Economy enquiry on 8th March, in which he was called to speak on a wide variety of topics including Amazon’s approach towards UK publishers and whether its low rate burdens were fair in comparison to those incurred by physical retailers.
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When the committee asked about whether the company had any plans to open a brick and mortar store in the UK as it did in Seattle in November, Misener said he had “nothing to announce” but added: “Let us see what happens. Let us see if our customers like it. Hopefully they will like the experience in our physical store there in Seattle. After all, innovation is about something you hope your customers will like.”
UK indie booksellers have previously reacted with “horror” to the idea of Amazon opening a physical bookshop in the UK, while James Daunt, m.d of Waterstones, has told The Bookseller if the company was to open shops in the UK selling books at its website prices then “the only sensible answer for me would be to send them my CV.”
However, when Edinburgh MP Michelle Thomson asked Misener whether Amazon’s rumoured plan to open between 300-400 stores in the US was part of Amazon’s “future plans for world domination?” Misener said: “No, it is not part of those plans. The opening of a physical bookstore took some people by surprise. It is just a natural growth of wanting to serve our customers…We did not view that as such a big deal.”
The Amazon global policy chief went on to say that the company was not responsible for the downfall of independent bookshop numbers – which have fallen by more than half in the past five years and now stand at less than 900 – saying Amazon employees “loved” books.
“We are bookish people: we love our books; we love bookshops,” he said. “We have done what we can to help them (independent bookshops) sell through us to reach markets well beyond where they could reach currently.”
He went onto say: “Much of the demise of the small bookshop occurred before Amazon was a factor; it occurred largely because of big box retailing. Since then we have endeavoured to help bookshops in a way the big boxes have not… Many of the tens of thousands of third party sellers who sell through our website that are based in the UK are bookshops. We are giving them a reach that they did not have before and a reach that others have not given them.”
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Misener said the MFN clauses were about keeping publishers from acting in concert: “It is largely because of the opportunities for, frankly, collective action on their part. You may have seen yesterday the US Supreme Court refused to hear the Apple appeal. This is an appeal of a settlement that was reached a couple of years ago with the American Department of Justice in which Apple agreed to pay $450 million because of the accusation that they had colluded with major publishers to keep e-book prices high. E-books are different from physical books.”
And he added: “In the context we recognise, like our customers do, an electronic book simply ought to cost less than a physical book. There is not the paper, ink, storage or shipping—all those things that go into a physical book. It ought just to cost less. We really have had some fairly high-profile negotiations with some publishers over the last few years with respect to e-books.”
Link to the rest at The Bookseller