Amazon is a pretty amazing company. They create a very compelling shopping experience encompassing nearly every category of product, they make the discovery and shopping experience easy, and customer reviews have transformed shopping by helping us find quality products and avoid crappy ones. Shopping online helps save time when shopping and running around town. And of course, as an indie author, 99% of my book sales are through Amazon.

For all that, Amazon is not a panacea. The same scale that allows recommendations, reviews, and low pricing to work also has negative side effects. There are many, but I’ll just mention a few:

  1. As more book buying moves online to Amazon and to ebooks, it becomes harder for local bookstores to survive. Some might say “who cares?” but for the 20% of Americans without Internet access, bookstores and libraries are how they access books. For younger children, bookstores are an exciting place of discovery. My kids love visiting any bookstore. But bookstores can’t survive on childrens books and only a small percentage of adults visiting them. 
  2. As an author, I’m very concerned that 99% of my book sales are through Amazon. What if they change their policies and decide to offer half the royalty rate? Without any other effective distribution outlet, I’d be screwed. I’m delighted to sell as many books as I do there, but I’d be much more comfortable if I was also selling elsewhere.
  3. Local, indie bookstores are owned by people, whereas Amazon is a global corporation. As I’ve mentioned before, every time we make a credit card purchase with a global corporation, we’re sending our money to the 1% of wealthiest people. Yes, we’re supporting them. If you spend your money at a local bookstore, a much greater percentage is actually staying people like you and me. 
Recently I’ve learned about two great ways you can support local bookstores: IndieBound and Kobo.
Kobo is an alternate ebook reading platform. Like Amazon, they have ereader devices and reading apps for all major smartphones and tablets. Like Amazon, they have millions of books, usually at the same price as Amazon. What’s different from Amazon is that they sell their ereading devices through local, indie bookstores. And when you buy a Kobo ereader from a local bookstore, a percentage of revenue of every single book you buy continues to support that bookstore for the life of the device. If you use a Kobo app instead, you can still support a local bookstore by purchasing ebooks through the affiliate website of your local bookstore.
In other words, you can get most of the benefits of shopping with a major online ebook store while still supporting your local bookstore.
IndieBound is an affiliation of local bookstores that are members of the American Booksellers Association. Through the IndieBound website, you can find and order books online, just as you would through Amazon, but instead your purchase benefits your local bookstore. And because the IndieBound website searches the large, commercial databases, nearly everything available on Amazon is also available through IndieBound, even if it’s a specialty, published-on-demand book.

So the next time you reach for the mouse to buy a book, give Kobo or IndieBound a try.

My books are available through both:

To give you a little incentive to try Kobo, you can pick up a copy of A.I. Apocalypse for FREE on Kobo through the end of November, 2013 by entering the code jansbooks. Detailed instructions:

  1. Visit Kobo.
  2. Click on A.I. Apocalypse, then click Buy Now. 
  3. Sign in with your Kobo UserID and Password. If you don’t have one, create an account.
  4. On the “Confirm Your Purchase” page, click on the link for “Have a gift card or promo code?” and enter the PROMO code: jansbooks
  5. A box will pop up saying that you’ve covered your cost so they won’t have to bill your credit card.
  6. Now you will see at the BUY NOW button that $0.00 will be charged. Click the BUY NOW button.
  7. Download the epub to read on your computer, tablet, or Kobo ereader.