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Bookshop.org: Modern Carpetbaggers


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Bookshop.org has exploited the recent desire of readers to support Black-owned indie booksellers.


Many Black-owned independents were unable to sell books on the web, or scale up to meet the increase in demand, by readings interested in supporting Black-owned bookstores on the heals of the George Floyd public execution.  


Bookshop.org; through deceptive and misleading tactics have managed to convince too many book buyers that by buying books through Bookshop.org that they are supporting Black-owned independent booksellers.  One example, was the case where Oprah Magazine published an article in which 12 popular authors mentioned their favorite Black-owned bookstore. The article also mentioned books published by the authors.  Orpah Magazine provided buy links for these book -- to the author's favorite bookstore -- instead the article linked to Bookshop.org -- failing to benefit a single Black-owned store with new business, but sending that business to benefit white-owned bookstores!


Obviously Oprah Magazine was attempting to support the Black-owned booksellers.  AALBC was one of the favorite bookstores mentioned.  How did Oprah Magazine fail?  It is easy to understand, because Bookshop deliberately misleads the public.  They are making a of money as a result -- much of this revenue coming at the expense of web Black-owned booksellers with websites.  This used to be called carpetbagging.


Bookshop claims they share a portion of their revenues with indie booksellers, but the vast majority of these stores are white owned.  Look, there is nothing inherently wrong with a white-owned business supporting other white owned business; this is America after all 😉 


Where I have a serious problem is Bookshop.org positioning themselves as helping Black-owned booksellers.  Bookshop does not help Black-owned booksellers. Bookshop is doing everything in their power to take profits from brick and mortar independents and to kill web based booksellers, like AALBC.


Bookshop made their intentions crystal clear when said they would share profits from sales with ABA members, who are virtually all white, except AALBC.com! They excluded AALBC.com on the grounds that AALBC is a online only bookseller.  At the time, I did not fully appreciate what this meant, because Bookshop.org was new and we were months away from the incredible show of support readers have shown Black-owned booksellers.  


Bookshop.org has benefited more than any Black-owned independent bookstore, during this period of social unrest, because they are slick.  They preyed upon, and exploited Black-owned stores without significant web presence.


I currently boycott Amazon, but Bookshop is worse than Amazon, because Amazon makes their goal plain -- maximizing profits. Bookshop's mission is based upon making the public believe they are a conscious alternative to Amazon and supportive of Black-owned independents. They are not. 


Bookshop.org is another web-based bookseller who has cleverly exploited a gimmick to make buyers believe they are supportive of all other indie booksellers. 


I will use my platforms and influence to make sure my customers (readers, authors, and publishers) understand that supporting Bookshop in NOT a substitute for support indie web-based booksellers -- certainly not AALBC.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 9/12/2020 at 11:19 AM, Troy said:

I currently boycott am*zon


Wow!!! Thanks for this. Had absolutely no idea. To a certain extent I knew about A2Z being able to pull customers to them through being so humongous. Earlier this year I experienced the "smothering" effect. It's not just A2Z. There are people advertising books on subjects totally unrelated to books by African American authors. This is to conceal books by other African-American authors from being seen in recommended books. Essentially static is being introduced to the ecosystem. Thereby effective communication is nil. They are paying a pretty penny for that privilege too.


What you just revealed indicates an effort to keep money that would ordinarily go to authors from our community now going to a middleman and outsider. Keeping booksellers from engaging with the market that only exists because the mainstream ignored the authors who serve an audience from the same demographic as themselves is obscene.


Your carpetbagger analogy is fitting. However, this is the same way Negro League baseball was eliminated as a competitor to MLB. Siphon off the best players and shut down the owners as a class. Negro League owners were not integrated, just the players.


I think the phrase "I currently boycott am*zon" is not enough. They effectively boycott Black bookstores, but never state that as a goal or plan.


Tell us what is your goal? What is your plan? What need are we meeting for our audience?

What is the unique selling advantage of AALBC?

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10 hours ago, Troy said:

there have to be filters on some level

Is the market the filter? At least I thought it was at one time. Now it seems we are told to choose from door 1, door 2 or door 3 as if there are not different levels. Being an independent publisher/author seemed like a new form of freedom. Check that. An old form of freedom being reborn.


The African Ink Road ran from North of Timbuktu to South of Kaduna in Nigeria...and beyond. An entire industry built on producing and distributing books. Several forms of the quote attributed to that time exist. The one I like best is:


The whole University of Sankore and Ahmed Baba saga is something we seem on the cusp of reviving.


Are the filters because of a concern ignorance and ugliness will rule the market instead of "knowledge and beautiful things?" Kind of seems like what's happening right now.

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