Friday, June 29, 2007


This is pretty disappointing: links to

I am as big an NPR fan as anyone (up to ten hours some days, in the Prius and streaming on iTunes--how's that for a stereotype?), but this is rather disheartening. As the above article and feedback mention, many independent booksellers are very involved in supporting and promoting their local stations.

Obviously, NPR is underwritten by many huge corporations (Target, ADM, etc), so having an Amazon link isn't that surprising. What irks me is the lack of an alternative. Booksense would be a great candidate and would give NPR listeners a choice in the matter, an element which probably led them to tune in public radio for news and entertainment in the first place. Booksense also offers the same click-through services, too, I believe.

I want to be careful to not completely bash NPR here: they are perhaps the most influential source of referring sales to many independent booksellers, sans Oprah. Our local station continually reminds listeners to support local bookstores and NPR features many prominent Indies recommendations on all the lists.

It just seems that not provided an alternative to a business that is driving down prices to levels that independents simply cannot afford to match if they are to stay in business--not to mention provide benefits to employess--is against what many of their listeners believe in.

Hopefully, NPR listeners speak up: buy books from your local independent at let NPR know you aren't happy about an exclusive online Amazon link.

--Jay Johnson, independent bookseller


Justin Riley said...

I find it more than a bit hypocritical to position yourself as an alternative to corporate radio and news, then turn around and pimp for Amazon.

Even if they don't care to throw the business Booksense's way, just neutrally linking to the publishers' pages would leave a better taste in my mouth.

StarStar said...

This is what I wrote to NPR:

"As both an NPR member and bookseller for a large independent bookstore, I am beyond disappointed to find out that the only option NPR provides for its listeners to purchase books is via Amazon. It seems as though the average customer coming through our doors is an NPR listener as we often have people coming in to say "I heard about this book on NPR, can you help me?" As an NPR listener, I'm often able to help identify the book quickly in order to sell it to a customer. I also learn more about some books that I am then able to handsell to customers because of the information I heard via an NPR story or interview. I feel that the partnership that occurs on the groundlevel between NPR members and local bookstores is vital to the commercial success of many books and I can't believe NPR would not want to encourage that interaction on the consumer level. Please consider linking to so that consumers can search for an independent bookstore near them. At the very least it gives the consumer a choice when shopping online."

Yeah. Even up here in the Northwoods where internet access is limited and I'm too busy most days to write to friends and family, I'll make the time to address this one!

Jay said...

Yeah, I'm trying not to forget the bigger picture--as StarStar points out: NPR does wonders for publicizing books and local, independent bookstores.

But, Justin brings up a the important point: you really can't have it both ways--an alternative and exclusively shunting your listeners' dollars to a giant like Amazon, which is more than a little responsible for reducing a community's access to a physical place to discuss and learn about books (and, yes, to buy them, too).

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