Radical book co-op reluctantly turns to Amazon

Members of workers co-operative News from Nowhere, one of the UK’s biggest radical bookshops, have a bitter taste in their mouths. Their recent decision to sell rare books...

Members of workers co-operative News from Nowhere, one of the UK’s biggest radical bookshops, have a bitter taste in their mouths. Their recent decision to sell rare books and textbooks online means they have little choice but to trade with a company owned by online retailer Amazon.

News from Nowhere, which has a shop in Bold Street, Liverpool, will sell donated books through AbeBooks. Amazon, which has recently attracted attention for tax avoidance in the UK and poor treatment of its workers, took over AbeBooks in 2008.

Co-op member Mandy Vere says: “We don’t want to have anything to do with Amazon. It is our biggest problem as a book retailer. But this is the best site for us to do this.

“A lot of people donate books and we get about pound each for them in the shop, but some of them are worth a lot more than that. This kind of diversification is one of the reasons we’ve survived at a time when a lot of booksellers are closing.”

Women’s co-op News from Nowhere has stayed the distance thanks to combination of hard work, community support and diversification of its unique offer; it now sells world and folk music CDs and Fairtrade crafts as well as books.

Mandy says: “Amazon are the opposite of us in many ways. More and more has come to light recently about things like their resistance to unionisation and how they have tagged workers with wristbands.

“In Germany they use a lot foreign workers, who live in appalling conditions, and it emerged that the security firm they employed had neo-Nazi connections. But what really made people think were the stories about Amazon avoiding paying tax in the UK.”

News from Nowhere is part of the Booksellers Association’s Indiebound network, which is fighting back through campaigns such as “We pay our taxes” and “Keeping it real – the campaign to keep books on the high street”.

Mandy says: “Publishers are waking up to this and giving us more support now they’ve realised Amazon has decimated the book trade. They're offering increased discounts, signed stock, authors for events and display materials.”

Despite the challenges, Mandy believes e-book sales will flatten, and that people will always buy books from independent shops. “Your independent bookshop can give you something no-one else can,” she says. “We have a children’s corner, somewhere to breastfeed and a kettle where you can make yourself a cuppa for 50p. We’re not just a bookshop, we’re a community centre. We’re not going anywhere.”

Visit News From Nowhere's online bookshop at newsfromnowhere.co.uk

• Independent bookstores across the UK are also supporting a petition on change.org calling for Amazon to its fair share of tax in the UK. Click here to sign the petition.

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