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Don't be Duped by Bookshop.org They are Exploiters of Black-Owned Bookstores

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If you think Bookshop.org is better alternative that Amazon.com, think again.


The following commentary is in reaction to the Black Bookstore Day conversation.


We would really need a journalist to look into this, but that is another one of our collective weaknesses we simply do not have the platforms with the resources to do this type of research and explain why it is important to readers.


It would be really interesting to know how much more Bookshop.org earned as a result of people wishing to support Black bookstore, but who, inadvertently are giving Bookshop.org the money instead. 


For example, mainstream media has been giving outsized attention to a café that also offers books for sale, Uncle Boobie's. Now Uncles Bobbies is does not pretend to be an ecommerce website.  Instead they send readers to Bookshop (see graphic below).


I'm not beating up on Uncle Bobbie's they are entitled to run their business as they see fit, but the point I'm making is that it is obvious to anyone who wants to support a Black store that a business like Uncle Bobbie's should not be at the top of the list, simply because they do not sell books online.





I also recognize that some actual brick and mortar bookstores simply were not setup to sell books on the web, because their focus is on their physical stores. However when the pandemic forced these stores bookstores to close, the web was their only option.   


Another bookstore that has earned a great deal of media attention is The Lit Bar.  They too send readers to Bookshop.org.  Bookshop.org is The Litbar online bookstore as they are for Uncle Boobie's and many others.


On the heals of George Floyd's public execution, Black-owned bookstores have enjoyed an increased level of support. Unfortunately Bookshop.org has been the entity to capitalize on the support intended for Black owned stores.


The media attention has been directed to stores that simply do not have ecommerce sites and Bookshop.org runs many of these stores websites.  I believe you will find strong correlation between a store's media attention and Bookshop running that store's online bookstore.  


How much more as Bookshop.org earned as a result.  I'm sure the dollar amount runs well into the millions.


All the major publishers link to Bookshop.org as a place to buy books.  These publishers still behave as if they are boycotting Black-owned stores.


Here is one how one large publisher's provides links for people to buy books:



Here is another...




This publisher of Sharpton's book was particularly striking because of the books subject. I reached out to someone to see what they can do, about getting the publisher to link to AALBC or any Black booksellers.  Now the publisher of Sharpton's book is an advertiser with AALBC, so I don't think these publishers are purely evil.  They just don't know the impact of what they are doing.


Someone who AALBC made aware of the Rise Up was surprised that they did not know about that Al Sharpton had a new book.  If AALBC did not exist, how much longer would if have taken?  It is in the publisher's interest to link to Black-websites.


As a boycotter of Amazon, I'm glad to see any other online bookseller get the some attention.  I called Bookshop.org a modern-day carpet baggers in #readingblack. They are a corporation siphoning much needed revenue and business away from the Black book ecosystem. I was fooled by Amazon for many years, I will not fall for the same Okie Doke Bookshop.org is delivering. 


The American Booksellers Association partnered with Bookshop.org and this is part of the reason Bookshop.org has gained prominence so quickly.  Bookshop.org has positioned itself as an righteous alternative to Amazon.  


Bookshop.org pays affiliates 10%. This is a slight increase over what Amazon used to pay (today Amazon pays 4%). Bookshop's "benefit" is that the share a matching 10% share with independent bookstores who are also ABA members. 


The vast majority of ABA member bookstores who benefit from the 10% Bookshop revenue share are white owned stores!  Many of these white owned stores already have great websites.  The bookshop.org revenue share is just a great windfall. 


When customers buy books online from Uncle Bobbies, The Litbar and others who use Bookshop.org what is really happening is that 10% of these sales are going to white owned stores -- who have done nothing to earn that revenue!  If readers, who are interested in supporting a Black-owned store were aware of this would they support Bookshop.org run websites?


Here's the kicker...


AALBC is an ABA member.  Bookshop refuses to include AALBC.com in the revenue share! The reasons are obvious. They want to dominate the online sales of books and are using the public's dissatisfaction with Amazon's dominance and exploiting a desire to support Black-owned stores to do it. 


Bookshop views sites like AALBC (the few of us that remain) as competition that needs to eliminated. 


The ABA used to help bookstore owners run their own websites.  Today however all of their energy goes to uplifting Bookshop.org.


I expressed my dissatisfaction with the ABA on this matter to no avail.  I even considered running for their board, to see if I can have an influence on how the ABA have completely failed to support web-based booksellers.  I could not go through with it as I can not spare the time and honestly I did not think I'd have much of an impact.  The ABA means well but they have a long way to go certainly as far as supporting Black-indie booksellers are concerned.


I will allow my membership to ABA to lapse and will boycott Bookshop.org, along with Amazon.


It is hard out here! LOL!

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47 minutes ago, Troy said:

AALBC is an ABA member.  Bookshop refuses to include AALBC.com in the revenue share!

No @Troy it's not obvious. I am really confused with that statement. It contradicts


48 minutes ago, Troy said:

Bookshop's "benefit" is that the share a matching 10% share with independent bookstores who are also ABA members. 

Please clarify this for me. Why doesn't AALBC get the revenue share?


Also, this tells me there is a HUGE market out there. Just a slice of the market share means "cha-ching."

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Thanks for asking for clarification:


Here is the deal.  I set up an affiliate store with Bookshop.org when they first launched last year.  I figured I could use them to generate revenue when supplying buy links for books that I do not carry in my online store.


When I send readers to https://bookshop.org/shop/aalbc I get 10% of any sales generated.  Bookshop, in partnership with the ABA, shares an additional 10% with indie-booksellers, who are also ABA members.  This is the revenue share that AALBC, an ABA member, is not allowed to receive.


Of course Bookshop retains the remaining revenue.


So when a readers buys a book from a Bookshop affiliate -- even a affiliate operated by a Black-owned business, like AALBC -- most of the profit goes to white businesses.


Does this make sense? 


A web based booksellers can make anywhere between 65% and 40% on the sale of a book.  As the ABA fosters a dependence of Black booksellers (usually the ones with the weaker ecommerce sites) on Bookshop.org they are basically taking 55% to 30% of that potential revenue. 


Bookshop has another program where Bookshop was they pay 30% of cover price to stores that handover they online sales to bookshop.  Still the bookstore is giving up 25% to 10% of their revenue.  While strengthening Bookshop and weakening the potential off all other web based booksellers.  This is the main source of by gripe -- it is Amazon all over again.


Popular booksellers like Powell's books in Oregon, does not use Bookshop.org -- they have a robust ecommerce website.  Powell's has also finally stopped using Amazon's marketplace, which has completed perverted rationale pricing for the online sales of books.  Powell's still gets the revenue share from Bookshop.org -- even though they do not use bookshop.

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Because AALBC is Black owned and Powell's is white owned.


Seriously, because the ABA and Bookshop.org have excluded stores that are web based only from the revenue share.


Again, I believe the reason websites have been excluded is that bookshop.org wants to dominate web sales.  The ABA does not seem to be concerned about this  and this is why I can  not support bookshop or the ABA for that matter.

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