I know, I know. This blog should be about something other than Amazon asshattery now and then, but SHEESH.
LibraryThing, bless their hearts, is responding the best way they can, which is to make their secondary pages promote the hell out of other stores and libraries. As they put it:
We’re going cut back our primary-page links to Amazon alone, and give people the best, most diverse secondary pages we can make. We are allowed to link to other booksellers, like IndieBound and Barnes and Noble on secondary pages, and we’re going to do it far better than we ever have. We’re going to take something away, but also make something better—something that goes way past what we did before, in features and in diversity of options.
It’s an unfortunate situation that they even have to make these decisions. Amazon already dominates the online bookselling world, and they’ve been doing pretty well at kicking bricks-and-mortar bookstores in the teeth for sales, too. To require that a site for booklovers capitulate to their demands is infuriating.
Yes, Amazon’s providing LibraryThing with information in the form of book cover images and other cataloguing information. It gives them a certain amount of leverage — if they want to take their ball and go home, LibraryThing has to scramble to find another way to post that information on their site. Is it doable? Sure. But being able to receive that information from one source, in the same format every time, very likely frees up the staff’s time so they can concentrate on other things.
Amazon had the opportunity to be gracious and confident here — honestly, how much damage would it do to them to have their link on the same page with Indie Bound? My guess is not very much. Instead they decided to play the internet bully yet again.
Yes, it’s a business decision. Yes, it’s their call to make, to look out for number one, and LibraryThing could have said “You know what? Forget it.” But they also say this:
LibraryThing is not a social cataloging and social networking site for Amazon customers but for book lovers.
Which means that, when they weighed the options, it was in the best interest of the site’s users to go along with what Amazon wants. Backing out of the agreement is, sadly, not the fight to pick here. It would diminish user experience. So, they get to do the next best thing: meet the minimums of the Amazon agreement and fill the secondary page with ten kinds of awesome.
They’re already working on connecting Indie Bound and LT. And, to show how incredibly cool their community is, when they asked for help verifying information on more than 1300 bookstores, the people who responded got it done in eighteen hours.
So, a tip of the ol’ floppy hat to LibraryThing, for sticking up for themselves and their community in a positive, constructive way.