Books

Independent bookshops are taking their battle with Amazon to parliament

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird backs indie book sellers' plans to "level the playing field" with Amazon.com

It was revealed last week that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ pay packet is increasing roughly by $231,000 (£165,453) every minute in 2018. That’s roughly four times what the average American worker makes in a year and makes him far-and-away the world’s richest man with a fortune of $132bn (£94bn). That’ll increase by the time you’ve read this story.

And with the firm paying just £7.4m in tax off UK turnover of £1.46bn in 2016, it’s hard for the indie bookshops, pillars of the community as they are, to compete—especially with Amazon’s book revenue well into the billions.

The way I see it, the Alliance will be a sort of ‘social Amazon’, working to strengthen booksellers’ power and market presence

That’s why Big Issue founder John Bird – alongside our #WhyBooksMatter campaign – is throwing his support behind the Independent Bookshops Alliance in parliament on March 29.

Around 130 indie sellers have joined forces to offer publishers a better way to collectively bargain with them, allowing the same access to tax breaks, exclusive editions and competitive prices enjoyed by the big boys.

Simon Key, founder of Wood Green’s Big Green Bookshop, has become the figurehead of the movement after penning a post on his blog outlining his plans to give indie sellers a louder voice in the industry.

“The idea has been in my head since November time but with all the business of running a bookshop over Christmas, I chose to put up the blog post in January and it has snowballed from there,” he says.

“There have been other attempts at this before but the difference in the past is that the idea was to bring down giants like Amazon and Waterstones – we want to level the playing field.

“It is bloody hard running an independent bookshop, but I’m excited about the idea, and I think what is really pleasing is that the whole book industry, from authors to publishers to wholesalers, seems to be excited about it too.”

Jeff Bezos Amazon
Jeff-Bezos-Amazon-hero
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Lord Bird added: “The new Independent Bookshops Alliance will actively promote Britain’s independent bookshop sector, which we know is crucial to supporting the fight for literacy and breathing life into local high streets.

“The way I see it, the Alliance will be a sort of ‘social Amazon’, working to strengthen booksellers’ power and market presence. If we can help level the playing field for these lantern bearers of civilisation, we will.”

The Big Issue’s #WhyBooksMatter campaign was launched last year to help give those who need it most access to books to improve literacy and help to dismantle poverty. We took that a step further with the Big Books Giveaway – inviting readers to tell us about groups who needed books the most so we could share the joy of reading with those who ordinarily do not get the chance.

Our 2020 Impact Report

The Big Issue has given more than £1 million support to Big Issue vendors struggling due to the lockdown restrictions. To mark the significant milestone, we have published an impact report, documenting the seismic shift the organisation has undergone in the past 12 months.

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Main image: Furcifer pardalis/Flickr

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