From the Associated Press via ABC News Wire Services :
With many independent bookstore owners facing the most dire financial crisis in their lifetimes, the American Booksellers Association has teamed with an award-winning advertising agency known for “culture hacking” to dramatize the threats of the pandemic and the growing dominance of Amazon.com.
On Tuesday, the trade group launched the “Boxed Out” campaign, for which a handful of bookstores around the country will have windows boarded up and boxes piled up out front that resemble Amazon delivery containers, with one label reading “Don’t Accept Amazon’s Brave New World.” The beginning of what the booksellers association hopes will be a conversation in stores and online, “Boxed Out” was designed by DCX Growth Accelerator, a Brooklyn-based firm which attracted national attention in 2018 when it set up a fake “Palessi” luxury shoe store and stocked it with items from the Payless discount chain.
“Boxed Out” coincides with Amazon Prime Day, when the online giant offers special deals to its members.
“We’re hoping that people will understand the juxtaposition and support their local stores,” says booksellers association CEO Allison Hill.
Independent booksellers had enjoyed a resurgence over the past decade after being devastated in the 20 previous years by the rise of the superstore chains Barnes & Noble and Borders, and then the emergence of Amazon. ABA membership, once more than 5,000, was down to just 1,401 in 2009 during the height of the Great Recession and was apparently set to keep declining as e-books began to catch on.
But the digital revolution stalled, Borders went out of business and Barnes & Noble retreated after a long era of expansion. In 2019, the last time the ABA released yearly numbers, membership was up to 1,887, with some sellers even opening additional outlets. Hill’s predecessor, Oren Teicher, who retired at the end of 2019, received an honorary National Book Award earlier that year for his success in “working to strengthen and expand independent bookstores nationwide.”
But the pandemic could wipe out all the gains since 2009. An ABA survey from this summer found that some 20 percent of members could go out of business, meaning hundreds of stores face closure, especially as government aid runs out. Meanwhile, the number of new independent stores opening has dropped sharply, according to the ABA, just 30 this year compared to 104 in 2019.
While the overall market for books has been surprisingly solid in 2020, Amazon.com has apparently fared best as the public increasingly makes purchases online. According to a report issued last week by the antitrust subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, “Amazon accounts for over half of all print book sales and over 80% of e-book sales” in the U.S. market.
Link to the rest at ABC News and thanks to DM and others for the tip.
Somehow, PG missed the news about the “fake ‘Palessi’ luxury shoe store” publicity event.
He also has doubts about the efficacy of a promotional campaign featuring “a handful of bookstores around the country [with] windows boarded up and boxes piled up out front that resemble Amazon delivery containers, with one label reading “Don’t Accept Amazon’s Brave New World.””
Apparently the CEO of the sponsor of this campaign, the American Booksellers Association may also have at least some misgivings, “We’re hoping that people will understand the juxtaposition and support their local stores.”
PG hopes the American Booksellers Association hasn’t paid DCX Growth Accelerator much money for this promotion.
Potential problems that immediately float into PG’s mind include:
- At least some people will conclude the participating bookstore has gone out of business, another victim of Covid and mentally mark it off their list of places to go shopping.
- Amazon will be the one thing that 90% of those who see this display remember, not the name or anything else about the bookstore.
- PG isn’t certain how a pile of empty Amazon boxes connects with dystopian science fiction.
- Depending upon the neighborhood in New York City and other cities around the country, upwards of half of the people who pass by won’t know what “Brave New World” means and won’t get the slogan.
- Somewhere in the installation, it would be a good idea for the promotion agency to place a notice that all the Amazon boxes will be taken to a recycling center instead of being dumped into the closest collection of trash cans or some passersby will be very upset and, perhaps, organize a boycott of the bookstore.
Somehow, PG doesn’t think anyone at Amazon will feel the least bit frightened by this publicity campaign. But photos of it will undoubtedly be a big hit in the obscure nooks and crannies of social media inhabited by Amazon haters and other losers. And somebody will put up a copy of the photo up on the bulletin board in at lease one Amazon break room.