The Book Depository: Amazon complement or competition?

The U.K.’s biggest online bookstore, The Book Depository, has launched its U.S. site. The site indicates it’s not taking on Amazon but a quick perusal can’t help but make you wonder.

The site’s “About Us” section says, “We are not in competition with Amazon, we complement Amazon by providing books which have poor availability, offering considerable discounts on certain titles which Amazon are [sic] unable to. On the other hand, we recognize that our customers want books quickly and, so, if we do not have stock — or if Amazon is considerably cheaper — our customers are able to order direct from Amazon via a link from our website.” That’s a nice touch but their Amazon links also serve to emphasize one focus of potential competition.

The Book Depository’s home page proudly announces: “Free shipping on everything!” and “Free shipping worldwide on all our books.” Then, when you locate a book a legend right below the price reiterates, “Free shipping worldwide.” In contrast, the Amazon link shows the Amazon price with shipping. Thus, a book on my wish list is $22.99 from The Book Depository and the page says the Amazon total is $27.09, adding in smaller print, “($23.10 plus $3.99 shipping to United States)”. Another showed a Book Depository price of $16.99 and an Amazon price of $21.12, again including $3.99 shipping.

What about unavailable books? The Book Depository did have one of my wish list books that’s not available on Amazon and at a 16 percent discount. That could work to The Book Depository’s benefit, especially for people who start looking for books such as appeared on today’s s announcement of the Man Booker Prize longlist. On the flip side of the coin, when I found one wish list book that was out of stock at The Book Depository, the Amazon “link” on the site said, “We don’t have information available on this title.” The book, though, is available and in stock at Amazon.

One thing to keep in mind is that the price quoted for Amazon shipping is for standard delivery of one item. Additional books in the same shipment cost another 99 cents each. Most books ship within 24 hours and Amazon says standard shipping “typically takes 3-5 business days.” The Book Depository books are shipped within 48 hours “from our fulfillment centre in Gloucester, United Kingdom.” They are sent via Royal Mail standard delivery, which is estimated to take 7–10 “working days.” Thus, you balance speed of arrival against cost.

Granted, this is just a cursory look at one aspect of the efforts to complement/compete with Amazon. Even if you’re willing to pay shipping to get the books more quickly, The Book Depository should be a welcome addition and potential alternative for those who shop for books online.

I went to a general store but they wouldn’t let me buy anything specific.

Steven Wright

Comments are closed.