6 April 2023
The sudden closure of UK-based Book Depository has sent a shiver through the Australian literary scene. As one of Australia’s most popular book retailers, it has been a reliable and diverse source of books since its founding in 2004 by business partners Andrew Crawford and Stuart Felton.
Based in Gloucester, it gained an unusually high level of popularity in Australia, no doubt because Australia lost its domestic book giant Borders in 2011 with Dymocks remaining as the most notable retailer.
For those seeking a book outside the mainstream, Book Depository, with its 20 million titles, was the next click for Australian consumers. The Australian fulfilment centre was particularly large.
American giant Amazon took over Book Depository in 2011 despite already being the largest bookseller in the US. A position which it continues to consolidate, along with its ever-expanding reach in the distribution of movies and TV shows.
On April 5, Book Depository sent out the following email:
We are sorry to let you know that Book Depository will be closing on 26 April 2023.
You can still place orders until midday (12pm BST) on 26 April 2023 and we will continue to deliver your purchases and provide support for any order issues until 23 June 2023.
From all of us at Book Depository we want to say ‘thank you’. Delivering your favourite reads to you since 2007 has been a pleasure.
You’ll find more info in our FAQs.
Amazon is culling its business, removing at least 18,000 jobs from the global payroll as part of an urgent cost-cunning initiative to cope with a downturn after Covid and as part of softening sales in a difficult economic market.
Jeff Bezos’ replacement CEO, Andy Jassy, confirmed the ‘difficult decision’, stating:
‘These changes will help us pursue our long-term opportunities with a stronger cost structure.’
In addition to folding Book Depository, Amazon has said that it will discontinue newspaper and magazine subscriptions on its eReaders. This is a disaster for independent publications who used the aggregated service to reach an extremely large customer base. There is unconfirmed speculation that this decision may have something to do with directing customers to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service.
It’s a sad day for Book Depository, whose vision was to improve the range, access, and affordability of books around the world. In difficult economic times, these virtuous endeavours are often sacrificed by corporate executives.
‘The overriding tenet of our annual planning this year was to be leaner while doing so in a way that enables us to still invest robustly in the key long-term customer experiences that we believe can meaningfully improve customers’ lives and Amazon as a whole,’ added Andy Jassy.
Having a duplicate book-selling service within the Amazon umbrella was probably seen as complication to be cleaned up, regardless of brand loyalty.
While a small number of independent book retailers remain in the market, Amazon is quickly moving to a position of monopoly – something that is concerning for those worried about the rise of literary censorship.
Do we really want the distribution of books lorded over by an overtly #Woke company that has a history of banning of books?
In 2022, Amazon staff apparently demanded the banning of books that associated mental illness with transgenderism. Republican Senators sent a letter to then-CEO Jeff Bezos asking for an explanation regarding the removal of a trans-critical work.
Officially, Amazon’s sale guidelines state: ‘We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or paedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.’
There are examples of all of this ‘banned’ content on the Amazon sale list, but let’s just end the example with The Communist Manifesto, responsible for the most political deaths in human history, available from $15.77, and Hitler’sMein Kampf for $2.99.
It might be more accurate to state that Amazon reserves the right to act as gatekeeper on the published works of the modern Culture Wars, taking a political position as a distributor.
A retailer is entitled to do this, but it becomes extremely problematic when that retailer might one day lord over the global market.
It is sad to see Book Depository go. For those that value freedom of expression, perhaps you may consider supporting the handful of remaining online book retailers, particularly second-hand retailers, that go out of their way to maintain humanity’s published works without attempting to butcher or censor them.
‘I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone at Book Depository, and our book-loving customers, for your supportive partnership over the years in helping us to make printed books more accessible to readers around the world,’ said Andy Chart, head of vendor management.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
Comment by Nelle-I supported Book Depository for years they served us well -I will miss them-bloody amazon always moving in where they are not wanted-a pox on them