Booksellers Association criticises Amazon for ‘ill-judged’ hardship fund donation

From The Bookseller:

The Booksellers Association (BA) has branded Amazon’s £250,000 donation to a booksellers hardship fund an “ill-judged attempt to mitigate a decades-long campaign to undermine the bookselling sector”.

Yesterday, it was revealed the retail giant was behind a huge donation to the Book Trade Charity fund for booksellers facing hardship during the pandemic. The pledge was sparked by a trade crowdfunder and brought the total fund up to £380,000.

Meryl Halls, m.d. of the BA, earlier supported the crowdfunding effort and praised the “heartfelt and moving response” from the trade for her struggling members.

However, Halls said she was now shocked by the revelation that Amazon had donated the large sum and said many of her members were angry and had responded by calling for the company to pay its fair share of tax.

She said: “The BA and our independent booksellers are taken aback by the revelation that the recent large donation is from the company held responsible by the majority of booksellers for the long-term demise of high street bookselling, and booksellers’ responses have been first stunned silence as they process the dissonance of the situation, followed quickly by a real sense of anger at the discordance at the heart of the gesture.

“There is a definite sense that this seems like an ill-judged attempt to mitigate a decades-long campaign to undermine the bookselling sector at the moment when we are facing the biggest existential threat we have ever faced.

“A common reaction amongst booksellers has been – ‘if Amazon really wants to support independent bookshops, then let them join bookshops in paying its fair share of tax’.”

The identity of the donor was originally not revealed by the charity, who said only that it had come from someone “committed to independent bookshops as part of a mixed bookselling economy”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Perhaps he missed it, but PG didn’t see anything in the OP indicating that The Booksellers Association had refused to accept the £250,000 donation from Amazon or sent the money to Chancellor of the Exchequer as a portion of Amazon’s fair share of tax payments.

4 thoughts on “Booksellers Association criticises Amazon for ‘ill-judged’ hardship fund donation”

  1. Sometimes you have to laugh: a decades-long campaign to undermine the bookselling sector appears to mean “introduce real competition into the bookselling sector by doing it better than the incumbents”. As far as I can tell, pre plague, the overall bookselling sector was doing fine, whatever the complaints of the traditionalists.

    Before Amazon, if I wanted a book that my local bookseller did not stock, I had to look for it in their microfiche copy of Books in Print, place an order and wait several weeks for the postcard saying it had arrived. Not the shops fault, just the way the publishing industry worked. So for non fiction I had already given up on bookshops well before Amazon appeared on the scene.

    In the good old days my purchases of non fiction were mostly from specialist sellers who at intervals put out a newsletter of new books on their chosen field (plus newly acquired second hand titles) and everything proceeded by snail mail and cheque payments. It was these sellers – and the specialist book clubs – who were really put out of business by Amazon (and I rather miss the lists of second hand military history).

    • Good points, Mike. I think it’s hard to argue that, on balance, Amazon has not been a great boon to readers.

  2. the company held responsible by the majority of booksellers for the long-term demise of high street bookselling

    The demise of High Street bookselling stems from the people who used to walk down high street.

    • Indeed. It always reminds me of the situation where a fellow’s girlfriend leaves him for another guy and the fellow doesn’t blame the girlfriend – he blames the other guy. It refuses to give the girlfriend agency in the situation. It’s the same with booksellers – customers are not independent rational actors – they are just innocent sheep who don’t know what is good for them. This is also reflected in the attitude boutique booksellers take towards their clientele. Rather than asking them if there is any specific book they want to buy, these booksellers presume that their walk-in traffic needs to be told what to read, and delights in doing so.

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