Bookselling Ireland Fear Bookshop Closures with Amazon.ie

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Hard on the heels of the changes to schoolbooks provision, which has already resulted in nine bookshops closing, comes the entry of Amazon into the Irish market with a fully-fledged .ie site and fulfilment centre. There are fears we could well see a hollowing out of the bookselling market in Ireland, with bookshops closing in towns and villages across the country as they struggle to compete with a multinational giant with a history of driving independent bookshops out of business.

Dawn Behan, Chair of Bookselling Ireland, the body that represents booksellers throughout Ireland commented:

We live in a free market economy, and competition is a fact of life for any bookshop, or any other SME – but  Amazon is something of an unstoppable juggernaut, and we are  again asking government to think intelligently about what this is likely to mean for booksellers and other small businesses – and to consolidate and increase the supports for SMEs across government. Amazon’s arrival in markets has been shown to distort those markets, and Ireland is unlikely to be any different.

“We are very sceptical of the notion that somehow Amazon benefits SMEs – market investigations in the US, the UK and across Europe have comprehensively demonstrated that the opposite is true. Amazon has been forced to change its practices on its Marketplace platform by regulators in the US and in other EU countries due to the inconsistent and unfair ways it treats sellers. The US Federal Trade Commission is currently suing Amazon for illegal competition conduct. It seems unlikely that Amazon won’t carry out that same behaviour in Ireland.

“Books were, famously, the first product carried by Amazon, and the bookselling markets in the UK and the US bear the scars of their impact over a quarter of a century. Bookshops are so much more than places you can buy the latest bestseller. They’re community hubs and cultural venues, supporting Ireland’s writers and publishers and contributing massively to the Irish literary tradition.

“To mitigate the impact of the arrival of Amazon – and changes to schoolbook supply – we are calling on the government to introduce a culture voucher scheme for young people, similar to those already in place in other European countries. This will have the twin benefit of not only broadening young people’s horizons by exposing them to in-person events and institutions they wouldn’t otherwise experience, but also provides vital economic support to the bookshops that nurture the cultural output of Ireland.”

(Note: Over the course of almost a decade, several European countries have launched cultural voucher programmes, that is, state-funded measures with the aim of introducing teenagers and young adults to their country’s unique and rich cultural scene, while also supporting cultural and creative industries. These cultural vouchers are physical or digital cards as well as mobile phone apps that are granted to 15- to 18-year-olds with a fixed amount of money to be spent exclusively on cultural goods and activities for a limited amount of time.)

Meryl Halls, MD of the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland commented, “ For over 25 years the Booksellers Association has fought to highlight the many benefits of local bricks and mortar bookshops in the UK in the face of Amazon’s dominance in that market. We will fight equally hard for our members in the Republic of Ireland to ensure that Irish consumers don’t lose access to the fantastic cultural and community spaces bookshops provide. From experience, Amazon’s dubious track record on many issues, including the treatment of SMEs using its Marketplace platform, leads us to urge Ministers to be cautious in celebrating the arrival of its .ie domain.”

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