My take on local bookstores and tax laws

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So here’s the deal.  One thing I have noticed at almost every hearing from Colorado to the Government Streamlined Tax Hearing that I have attended or heard about has involved some small, local brick and mortar bookstore complaining about how unfair it is that these online retailers get to sell in their States and hurt their businesses.

The reality is that they would be hurting anyways from not keeping up with the times or doing their jobs by keeping the foot traffic coming in.  Should they complain that a Barnes and Nobles or a Borders Bookstore opens up right down the block?  Should the government step in because those shops offer a Starbucks?  How about that one of those two mega stores has also released a product to combat and compete with the Amazon Kindle?  Now they can offer downloadable books just like Amazon and take away from the person going into the independent store.  Should the government or Local and State Governments jump in and say no selling any downloadable book readers?

No, these little bookstores should quit their complaining and find a way to be more competitive.

Affiliates businesses are at risk just like their stores.  The difference is that it is not the Affiliate’s fault in this case.  They didn’t fall behind the times, the Affiliate didn’t forget to diversify their portfolio and expand their business.  No they found ways to increase traffic and compete with the big guys.  They found ways to drive and increase sales and most of them had no Marketing experience.  There is no reason on earth that these small brick and mortars cannot do the same.

Why not try opening a coffee shop in your store?  Have a band night and try to get the younger people who may be shopping online in your store and buying books or coffee while the bands are playing.  Bring in authors for book signings when they are on tour like Laurell K. Hamilton to get people coming back into your stores.  You can also make them buy a copy or bring a receipt from their purchase in your store to get to meet the Author and to get their autograph.  There are tons of things they can do that Online retailers can’t which would make them more competitive and could also help to keep their foot traffic coming in to their stores.  It is like the Affiliate who sets up a banner farm expecting to get rich without realizing you have to do work to get the Search Engines to give you traffic or sites to link to your banner farm so that people find you.  Running a business is hard work and even though there is a big guy there, find the niches they are not in and build yourself up to compete.  That is what Affiliates do everyday.

The other thing that I find really troublesome is that from the ones I have seen or heard complaining (mainly the one in Colorado), they sell online and from what I have gathered, they have no problem selling to other states.  Some of them even have their own Affiliate programs.  How is that fair?  If you’re worried about your local customers, what about that shop in NY that is small, privately owned and struggling.  Did you think that you are doing to them what you are complaining online retailers are doing to you?  That is purely hypocritical.  It isn’t the Affiliate or Online Retailers fault that you cannot keep up or do not want to learn how to do what Affiliate Marketers and Online Retailers do.  Furthermore, it would be very interesting to see how many of them are collecting and paying other state sales taxes, income taxes, use taxes, etc…  I’d like to see how their tones change when they have to shut down their own online business and when they also get crapped on for their Affiliate programs, if they have them.

Now, in their defense.  I love the little independent shops.  I shop a lot, well used to shop a lot, at Kramerbooks in Washington, DC.  I used to stop at another small bookstore in Lakeview in Chicago Illinois.  In Philly, there was a small one I would always run to first when I needed something new to read by the grocery store I went to.  However, if these are the same types of stores that are going to damage my business, guess what, maybe I should join the masses and start shopping through the larger retailers and leave supporting the small, independent bookstore.  The large chain stores have better prices and guess what, I can also get a Starbucks Coffee at a lot of them.

Chances are I will stick to checking out Kramerbooks in Washington, DC before I go to a Barnes and Nobles or Borders (I love the cajun roast beef sandwich at Kramerbooks….it is a must go to when you are in DC or Dupont Circle) because I like the service (not at the restaurant,,,the service there is awful but the food and cajun roast beef sandwich is amazing) and attention I get at the smaller shops, however, they have to also realize that if they continue to push for these taxes, it will also effect their business as they may have to stop their online sales, close their Affiliate programs and may have to pay back taxes on sales they didn’t know about because of the laws they thought would help them and that they fought to pass.

I love going to small bookstores and supporting local businesses, but there is no reason to hurt Affiliate Business and online Interstate Commerce, especially if you are selling books and products online yourself.  Find a way to diversify your store and you should be able to bring people back in.  If you want moms and families, do a day care center or have a book reading and book club.

Have multiple book clubs for different fans.  Romance novel clubs, sci fi, horror, etc…  It is easy to diversify and because you are brick and mortar, use your store to advertise.  You can also use your local community and local ad board to help promote your clubs and your new store offerings.

There is no reason that you cannot compete in the market.  You just have to be smart or find someone who is.

Sorry about this post but I really needed to vent.  Also, these are just my opinions and may not be 100% accurate or something you agree with.  If you agree or feel different, please feel free to leave a comment here and if it is on topic, not offensive or attacking, I will gladly post it and probably respond.

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2 thoughts on “My take on local bookstores and tax laws”

  1. I absolutely empathize with local booksellers, who are suffering from unfair competition by both big-box bookstores (Borders, B&N) and from online booksellers. Of course, some of these store-owners are just not “good enough at business,” and many could benefit from an examination of their marketing strategies. But let’s face it, they are losing sales to Amazon because of the sales-tax differential.

    What’s unfair? In years past, the big-box bookstores did some very unethical and anti-competitive things, including basically forcing distributors to charge higher wholesale prices to smaller local stores, and trying to shut out local bookstores from author tours and publicity drives. And of course, Amazon and other online resellers get an unfair advantage by not collecting sales tax (offset partially by shipping costs).

    My sympathy for local bookstores does NOT mean I support these absurd, unconstitutional advertising-nexus laws, which don’t achieve their intended goals (either helping local booksellers or increasing tax revenue).

    Unfortunately, the sneaky way that New York enacted its version of the law forced Amazon to choose which issues to litigate, and Amazon chose to collect the sales tax and focus on the constitutional issue. The result is that other states have incorrectly assumed that Amazon would “roll over” when they passed similar laws — and the booksellers’ lobbyists have misled legislators by denying the truth of this.

    I don’t think it’s helpful to attack or criticize the booksellers whose lobbyists are pushing this law; instead, it makes much more sense to acknowledge areas where there is unfairness, and seek an effective solution to the problems.

    1. Hi Mark,

      I support and like the local and small bookstores. I just don’t agree with the ones that are pushing for this tax law, selling online themselves, have an Affiliate program, etc… I think it is not fair and also sort of hurting them at the same time. I agree with you on most of it and completely disagree with the tax laws that are being passed. They could always find ways to bring their local communities back to their stores. People shopping online will happen regardless, what the stores need to do is move themselves online and start to compete or find ways to bring people offline and back into their stores. They could even offer to host town meetings inside their store to build awareness and get free pr in the local papers.

      Great to see you here and thank you for commenting.


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