Another Case Against Amazon
There can be little doubt that for many booksellers — both in our Christian publishing industry and the larger, general market — Amazon has been a key factor in ruined businesses and store closings. Their predatory pricing and marketing has done damage to Christian bookstores in particular to a degree that overshadowed competition from CBD (Christian Book Distributors), which was at one time the chief rival to brick and mortar religious bookstores. The loss of each and every store also impacts wholesale distributors and publishers.
Amazon sells erotic literature of both the literary and photographic variety. Presented with this information, some Christian bookstore customers do reconsider. But if they need more nudging, nothing should suffice better than the initial, short-lived decision of Amazon Kindle to publish a 631-page book by Canadian convicted rapist and murderer Paul Bernardo. Heather Mallick’s review (of sorts) of the book for The Toronto Star was given the online header, “Paul Bernardo’s eBook proves he can’t spell, write, think;” while in the November 14th print edition the headline was, “An illiterate, laughable attempt at prose.”
She noted that, “The book is said to be legal because it doesn’t describe his crimes;” but adds that Bernardo stood to profit from e-book sales.
The same day as Mallick’s story appeared in print, the company withdrew the title.
Still, you have to wonder how things ever got that far. Or how many copies were sold prior to the sales shutdown.
Fellowship Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario is the largest church in our town by weekly Sunday attendance. They have never been a ministry partner church of our bookstore, though they did allow us, until a year ago, to place flyers in adherent’s mailboxes twice a year.
All of their buying is done elsewhere. I’ve been in the office when the courier trucks rolled up with cartons and cartons bearing the logos of Amazon and CBD. It was hard not to cry. The use of Amazon in particular was hard to fathom; it seemed to fly in the face of Galatians 6:10.
We previously had created a program we called WebMatch with them in mind; a buying option that allowed them to continue to get the deals they wanted while at the same time supporting local, marketplace ministry.
It was to no avail. I once thought that perhaps stewardship had trumped local ministry support, but with WebMatch, apparently the door-to-door delivery was also a factor. We introduced local delivery.
It was to no avail. All of their curriculum, small group and library purchasing goes elsewhere; unless a particular library resource is proving hard-to-find. We know that Amazon is a major factor in their small group buying; so when word came out that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was the largest single supporter of the gay marriage lobby in the United States, we thought for sure we would win them back. These guys are Baptist after all; by definition, conservative Christians tend not to support gay marriage, right? We sent them the necessary information.
Again, to no avail.
All of this to say that I doubt that the publication of a book by Paul Bernardo would influence their buying decisions any more than the issue of gay marriage. Their church wants the lowest price, they want it fast, and they want it delivered to their door. I can get next day delivery from Foundation and Cook if needed, but HarperCollins can be up to eight business days. Their church leaders and administrators want products consistently to arrive yesterday and they apparently don’t believe we’re capable of quick service.
I would hate to think what other trades and suppliers that church uses. In the few times it has come up in conversation, I have learned that the membership at large doesn’t realize their tithes and offerings support Amazon; they just assumed all their Sunday School curriculum and adult elective study guides were coming through the local Christian bookstore.
While they may disagree, I personally reserve the right to hold them complicit in the closing of our store when it happens; and I don’t intend to remain entirely silent on that subject. Our 20-year history in Cobourg would be entirely re-written if they had chosen to be supportive.