Penguin Random House launches book-based social network to take on Amazon

The world’s biggest publisher Penguin Random House has launched a social network that it hopes will bolster the dwindling number of independent bookshops from the onslaught of Amazon. Apparently, there are fewer than 1000 indy booksellers remaining in the UK.

Basically, what you do is share details of your favourite books on your virtual bookshelves and get recommendations for future reads. The ecommerce element of the site is powered by Hive. Every user can pair up their shelves to a shop and that book seller will get a kickback on sales. Check out the site at www.myindependentbookshop.co.uk.

Where to start? Amazon will be 20 years old in 2014. This internet mularky hasn’t crept up suddenly and silently and disrupted publishers out of the blue. They have been astonishingly slow to react and independent bookshops too didn’t read the runes correctly. Those that do flourish are either niche, have some of their business online, or have diversified their business to include events and bookreadings.

To be fair on Amazon, business rates and other business costs have had a detrimental effect too on all sorts of small traders. As has supermarket discounting and the big chains – it’s as true for the bookseller as the greengrocer.

And the book industry has been suprememly supine in the face of Amazon with a strategy that amounted to little more than putting heads in sand. And let’s face it: publishers haven’t always been the small book sellers’ best mates in the past twenty years.

I say, if you value your local indy, buy books there at full price and do it because you enjoy it and value the experience. Sadly well-meaning, projects like this (that are at least 5 years too late, if not 10) will not save the day.