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Raven Book Store Owner Publishes “How to Resist Amazon and Why”

10 November 2019

From The American Booksellers Association:

Danny Caine of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, has published a zine titled How to Resist Amazon and Why. The 16-page zine features Caine’s October 2019 letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, a review of the case against Amazon, a compilation of Raven’s Twitter advocacy, and additional material.

How to Resist Amazon and Why was quick to receive widespread attention. Caine told Bookselling This Week that “Between in-store sales, online sales, and wholesale orders we’ve shipped out, we’ve moved about 1,400 zines in the first 10 days. All of those were hand stapled by me, my wife, and my friends.” Caine added, “we’ve sent them to around 60 stores in the U.S., Canada, and England.”

Due to the zine’s popularity, Raven partnered with Microcosm Publishing to assist with distribution. Microcosm has a record of resisting Amazon — even going as far as altering its business model to no longer have a direct distribution relationship with the company. Microcosm has positioned itself in such a way that Amazon sales comprise only one percent of its sales each month.

According to Caine, Microcosm expects How to Resist Amazon and Why to be its best-selling zine of the season with already a few thousand pre-orders. Microcosm confirmed that Caine’s zine was impressively its #2 title for the last week of October.

Joe Biel of Microcosm told Bookselling This Week, “I think the zine has been so successful because people feel very frustrated by Amazon.” Biel added that no one “realized how big of a title this would be. Nor did anyone realize that [the zine] would resonate so deeply with bookstore employees.”

In Raven’s letter to Bezos last month, Caine articulated some of the many ways Amazon has hurt booksellers. “We like business competition, we think it’s healthy. But the way you’ve set things up makes it impossible to compete with you,” said Caine.

He challenged the idea of tech companies “disrupting” old ways of doing business to further innovation, saying “…we are not ripe for disruption. We’re not relics. We’re community engines…If your retail experiment disrupts us into extinction, you’re not threatening quaint old ways of doing things. You’re threatening communities.”

Link to the rest at The American Booksellers Association

PG doesn’t like to see any small business fail because, almost always, there is a lot of work that someone or several someones have put into building it up and keeping it running.

However, any business, large or small, relies on customers to purchase its goods/services.

PG suspects that blaming Amazon for a sales downturn really amounts to blaming the former customers of the business who have, for one reason or another, chosen to purchase from Amazon because doing so benefits those customers in some way that’s important to them.

If lower cost is a reason those customers prefer purchasing from Amazon, criticizing Amazon is effectively blaming those customers who may not have enough money to pay for the extra overhead involved in supporting a physical bookstore. At least some of those customers are avid readers who appreciate the ability to obtain more books to read and enjoy.

PG also suggests that, if Amazon had never existed, someone else would have run the same play that Jeff Bezos did. Physical books are a great product for mail order because they don’t spoil on the shelf, don’t get broken during shipping and even benefit from lower postal costs.

Ebooks are an even more ideal product because they’re cheap to store and, effectively, cost nothing to deliver. If Amazon had not executed its ebook strategy, some other cost-cutter or combination of cost cutters would have done the same thing.

Again, blaming Amazon because a lot of people prefer reading ebooks over physical books is, effectively blaming those readers for their personal choices.

Amazon, Bookselling, Bookstores

22 Comments to “Raven Book Store Owner Publishes “How to Resist Amazon and Why””

  1. These people refuse to accept that Amazon’s costs are lower than theirs.
    It’s that simple.

    Failing that, they can:
    Blame the publishers for volume discounts.
    Blame their distributor (Ingram) for wanting to make a profit.
    Blame customers for not wanting to buy higher priced books as an act of charity.
    Blame their landlord for high rents, blame the minimum wage, blame their employees for wanting to be paid…

    Or, they could blame themselves for getting into a declining business without a plan to survive today’s environment. (Some bookstores have actually figured it out, believe it or not.)

    But it’s easier to blame Amazon.

    Problem is, the blame game solves nothing.

    (By the way, saying you’re not relics is tbe clearest sign you are.)

    • You’re WRONG! Amazon is a MONOPOLY!! We must resist them!!!

      (from the OP)

      Caine’s release comes as ABA gets ready to host its Antitrust Symposium on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the 15th annual Winter Institute (Wi15). At the Symposium, booksellers will have the opportunity to hear from antitrust advocates and experts and to meet with Congressional staffers from their districts to discuss, among other things, Amazon’s effect on their bookstores, and the need for a comprehensive antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices.

      Caine, who plans to attend the Symposium, said, “I can’t wait to learn more about how we can resist the encroachment of big tech into small businesses.”

      • Disappointment lies ahead.
        He would have better luck trying to resist the borg.
        Amazon has something much better than Borg cubes: Prime.

        Relying on political advocates and politicians to avoid competing instead of adapting to the 21st century is delusional.

        Any investigation will only reveal that Amazon’s costs are lower than their prices. What else can they find?

      • While having a good chunk of online sales, Amazon is by no means a monopoly and those jokers know it – but it’s the only drum they have so they keep beating it in the hopes some fool might believe them.

        They keep praying that people will believe their ‘comprehensive antitrust investigation’ noise; but there’s a major problem with it – Trump.

        Trump hates Jeff with a passion and would do whatever he could to crush someone whom is proving themselves to be a much better businessman than Trump ever was …

        So here’s a question for Danny Caine and the ABA. With all his power as the POTUS, why doesn’t Trump have the DoJ tearing Jeff’s Amazon down? Come on guys and gals – it’s a really simple answer.

        Amazon is not breaking any of the current laws of this land. And if you want to be upset about a big company killing off little ones then why aren’t you whining about Walmart?

        “Nor did anyone realize that [the zine] would resonate so deeply with bookstore employees.”

        And those bookstore employees are the only ones drinking the kool-ade. The rest of us are making/saving money at that place they don’t like or want to understand.

        • There are two big (and a few hundred smaller) problems with their whines: BAM and HalfPrice. Plus the hundreds of smaller stores that are surviving, going from hanging on to doing reasonably well.

          It’s not impossible to make money selling books at B&M.

          But it might be impossible of instead of running a business you’re running a “community engine”.

        • So here’s a question for Danny Caine and the ABA. With all his power as the POTUS, why doesn’t Trump have the DoJ tearing Jeff’s Amazon down? Come on guys and gals – it’s a really simple answer.

          It is simple. He’s not falling for the temptation to use the IRS, DOJ, FBI, or CIA against political opponents.

          It’s also evident that the calls to curb big tech cannot rely on current law because there is no violation of current law. There was a time when monopolistic behavior also was not illegal. Then a social need was recognized and new law was enacted.

          If the behavior of the big techs is shown to be harmful to society, it will take new law, not misplaced application of current law, to handle it. I see no move from any quarter to go down that path.

          • “It’s also evident that the calls to curb big tech cannot rely on current law because there is no violation of current law.”

            And almost any law they might pass to curb big tech will also hurt all those little people that use the tech – possibly doing more harm than it could do to the big tech.

          • It’ll take new law but the odds of that…
            Remember the push for a national internet sales tax?
            Been a while, hasn’t it? They finally got tired of flogging that dead ADS horse.
            This too shall pass away…

            Passing laws requires more people for them than against.
            And for every bookseller and political activist pushing against big tech there’s hundreds of thousands who liie things as they are. Out of inertia, if nothing else.

            Did you notice that for all the griping over facebook privacy issues, their latest numbers show a *rise* in subscriptions?

            https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/30/facebook-earnings-q3-2019/

            The real world is very different from what the pundits think. Just ask the orange guy.

            • Sure. That’s why all the monopoly stuff sounds so silly. Most don’t even understand monopolies, monopolistic behavior, or why the law is even involved.

              They have yet to develop a coherent theory of information transmission.

              A political attack against information transmission can come from other directions: SEC, OSHA, IRS, etc. Net Neutrality is an example. That had nothing to do with monopolies.

              • They can’t.
                Because they come from a paradigm of information restriction rather than diffusion. They can’t accept that the majority prefers frictionless diffusion instead of gatekeeping and curation.

    • Why these people can’t seem to figure out that they need to play to the strengths they claim for themselves is beyond me.

      You say you’re more personal? Fine. If there’s an author I like, can you tell me what authors I might like as a result? Or, are you going to sneer at me in condescension when the author I mention isn’t one of the current literary darlings?

      • Playing to their strengths would cost them even more money, so all you’re going to get is lip service on those claims of strength.

        .

        “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” –George Bernard Shaw

  2. I give the guy credit. At $3 each, he has sales of 1,400, for $4,200. It’s a lot better than sputtering on a blog post for free.

    • Odds he’s making a profit off the screed?

      • Odds he’s making a profit off anything are pretty low. But incremental contributions to overhead costs are better than none.

        • What about opportunity cost?
          Wouldn’t the time wasted whining be more productively used studying the hundreds of bookstores that aren’t tanking and finding out why not?

          • No. He’s in a lose/lose position. He wouldn’t make near as much money organizing community candle vigils for literature or learning that he is really in a lose/lose situation.

            • Is he in a lose/lose, though?
              Why is he doomed to failure while plenty of other non-amazon booksellers aren’t?
              Is it because he is a bad manager?
              Or is it because of his assumptions?
              Maybe he’s missing facts?
              Ignorance can be remedied.

              • Why is he doomed to failure while plenty of other non-amazon booksellers aren’t?

                Since plenty of people have won the Powerball Lottery, I know my future is one of unbridled luxury.

                • That says nothing about why plenty of bookstore owners succeed instead of whining.

  3. The Raven is our local bookstore, and I’m a regular customer. They support local writers and team with the Lawrence Public Library to host a wide range of events, including book signings by authors both famous and local, as well as the upcoming Paper Plains Literary Festival. While I know I can purchase books more cheaply on Amazon, I’m willing to pay a little extra to help support the The Raven’s community engagement. Caine’s anti-Amazon efforts have not only put his bookstore on the national map, they also help raise awareness of all the local benefits an active independent bookstore can bring to the community–which is precisely what encourages my wife and me (and a whole lot of other Lawrence natives) to support them. After several years as a happy customer, I looked to The Raven when my latest book became available, and they were there for me to host a local book launch. Has The Raven lost customer dollars to Amazon–undoubtedly. Has Caine’s impassioned defense of local book stores helped bring some of those dollars back? I can’t speak for others, but it did mine.

    • Great.
      Then why the whine?
      It’s not as if there is any legitimate issue at stake.

      If he’s smart enough to run a profitable business, why does he care what Amazon does or doesn’t do?

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