Amazon Swallows Book Depository
Amazon has announced that it will be buying out online UK bookseller Book Depository. The move will give Amazon a virtual monopoly of online sales of print books in many countries. Founded in 2004, Book Depository has established a dedicated customer base in Australia and many other countries because of its ‘free shipping’, a feature it offers to some 90 countries worldwide, making it in many instances a cheaper source of books than its main competitor, Amazon. In actual fact, Book Depository freight charges are built into the price of the book, so that prices of the same book will differ from one country to the next.
Nevertheless, the business model has been such a success that for a while it looked like Book Depository might emerge as a credible competitor to the American behemoth. A quick look at Book Depository’s numbers tells the story: the company’s turnover this year was expected to soar to about $180 million, up 80% on the previous year. Amazon has reassured consumers that it will not throttle the business and Book Depository for its part has promised to continue to operate independently.
“Potentially it could be a very big deal,” says Tim Coronel, publisher at Bookseller & Publisher magazine about the implications of the buyout. “They will effectively be the biggest market player in Australia without having a physical presence here.” Coronel estimates that up to 15% of all individual books - both print and ebooks - are purchased from overseas online book retailers. He connects the deal with the recently-announced purchase by Pearson Australia of REDgroup, the local owner of the defunct Borders and Angus & Robertson chains, which is committed to continuing Borders' online business. He says this deal means that one of the world’s largest publishers - Pearson owns Penguin - is now the owner of one of Australia’s best-serviced online book retailers.
Leading local online book retailers include Booktopia, Readings, Boomerang Books, Seek Books, Dymocks, The Nile, Fishpond and REDgroup. All, says Coronel, emphasise their localness, and although access to overseas titles can still be tricky, the industry is quickly catching up to Europe and North America.