Desperate Times? Amazon Offers Indies Two-Year Ebook Revenue Share in Exchange for Customers

Amazon today unveiled a plan that lets indie booksellers turn their customers into Amazon customers.

Under the program, Amazon Source, independent booksellers buy Kindle devices at 6% below retail price for resale in their stores.  The stores then get a 10% cut of Kindle ebook sales to customers on those devices for the next two years.

Amazon explained it’s reasoning in a press release:

“We believe that retailers, online or offline, small or large, should be striving to offer customers what they want—and many customers want to read both digital and print books,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “For many years, bookstores have successfully sold print books on Amazon—now Amazon Source extends this opportunity to digital. With Amazon Source, customers don’t have to choose between e-books and their favorite neighborhood bookstore—they can have both.”

Many independent booksellers are already selling ebooks, through an agreement made by the American Booksellers Associate and Kobo in the summer of 2012.

Selling Kindles in retail bookstores is not a new idea. In the UK, the Waterstones chain, which is restructuring in an attempt to stem losses at its 300 stores, is giving it a shot.

Amazon’s press release quotes enthusiastic booksellers involved in the Amazon Source pilot program.

“JJ Books is excited to expand our selection to now include Kindle devices for our customers. We are selling Kindle e-readers, tablets, and accessories in our store to expand our customer base and build toward the future bookstore model. We feel that Amazon is the leader for e-readers. Teaming up with Amazon to bridge the move to electronic books will help us find a means of long-term viability for our independent bookstore. Kindle will help us bridge the evolution of the bookstore into the Internet age,” said Jason Bailey, Co-Owner of JJ Books, Bothell, WA.

Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA., has a different take:

“There’s a huge problem for any bookstore that might be tempted to do this: the store would be handing over to Amazon.com all of the information about its customer database,” Petrocelli said. “It reminds me of the situation that happened about a decade ago when Borders contracted with Amazon to handle its on-line business. Amazon ended up with the customers, and Borders went bankrupt.”

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