London’s radical bookseller takes on Amazon


12:00 pm - March 4th 2010

by Newswire    


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Fifty years ago, in the aftermath of World War Two, a group of pacifists opened Housmans radical bookshop in London’s Kings’ Cross.

Ever since, Housmans has worked hard to continue its mission of promoting ideas of peace, human rights and a more equitable economy by which future wars, and all their inherent suffering, might be avoided.

Now, Housmans has launched its own online bookshop to rival Amazon. Although still prioritising their stock of radical interest and progressive politics, the site is also able to provide around half a million general titles.

They say the biggest threat to independent bookshops has been the rise to dominance of the online bookseller Amazon.com.

What is wrong with using Amazon?
In 2001 the Guardian first reported on the poor working conditions in Amazon’s warehouses, and nothing much has changed since.

In December 2008, a Sunday Times reporter went undercover to their Marston Gate warehouse near Milton Keynes and discovered that staff were required to work seven days a week and were punished for taking sick leave, even if they had a note from their doctor.

According to Unite the Union, Amazon continues to see trade union representation as illegitimate.

Amazon’s dominance of the market means that publishers have little choice but to comply with their demands. Aside from the ethical considerations, this affects readers in reduced output from small presses, and diminished availability of radical titles.

Co-manager Nik Goreck says:

This year Housmans celebrates fifty years of trading from our Caledonian Road address, but in order for us to be here another fifty years we have to stand up for ourselves, and trust in ethically-minded book-buyers to support independents.

The staff at Housmans has fought many battles over the years for causes we believe in, and this is one battle we can’t afford to lose. Please support the shop that supports your campaigns!

www.housmans.com
From a press release

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Reader comments


“Aside from the ethical considerations, this affects readers in reduced output from small presses, and diminished availability of radical titles.”

Ahahahahaha…..seriously?

Lowering the cost of distrubution means that catering to minority tastes is more difficult?

Seriously kiddies, you’ve got to be shitting me.

As to the larger campaign, hey, have fun. Buy what you wish where you wish according to whatever set of priorities you have. That’s the glory of this free market thing, that you can do so.

Indeed, you ought to do so.

2. Mary Wooster

Didn’t they have Naomi Klein come to do a talk there? I was in Leeds, alas.

3. Mary Wooster

Just seen your comment Tim. I think the article means something slightly different from your interpretation. I used to work for a small publishers and we were offered really awful terms (e.g. 10-15%) by the “big boys”, they were often late payers – and a few times didn’t bother to pay at all. They also kept sending back damaged or unsold books. It became just impossible. You just have to put up with it as 3 or 4 sellers dominate the market.

So we only made money by selling to independents. But when the “big boys” more or less took over we had few places left to sell our books and ended up – sadly – packing it in.

4. Strategist

Oligopolies, market power abuses to drive out competition – that’s the glory of this free market thing.

Housemans used to sell ‘Red Action’ who were unequivocal supporters of the Provisional IRA. I think they also sold An Phoblacht – Republican News which is the Sinn Fein weekly newspaper …….as well as all the other weird and wonderful leftist papers (like The New Worker)
http://www.newworker.org/

I’m not knocking the place. There should always be bookshops like that.
God knows how they kept going just on people actually purchasing at the shop.

6. Strategist

“God knows how they kept going just on people actually purchasing at the shop.”

No rent and volunteer staff?

No surprise to see Worstell championing a company that makes its staff work 7 days a week and will not allow them sick leave.

It’s a Rand race to the bottom fantasy. But Timmy is on the wing nut welfare circuit so he does not have to work for a living.

Dear Sally, please, do show me where I’m supporting Amazon?

As far as I can see I’m supporting people buying from this new online resource. If people wish to support a cause with the money, by changing where they buy things, good luck to them. Indeed, I say that if they want to support a cause then they should spend their money in that manner.

How in buggery is that supporting Amazon?

“But Timmy is on the wing nut welfare circuit so he does not have to work for a living.”

As to that I wish I knew where that welfare circuit was. I don’t get a salary or allowances or anything from anyone. I get paid for freelance writing (as Laurie Penny does and as she’ll tell you, that’s work….as indeed Sunny does and so will he) and I’m a wholesaler of weird and exotic metals. No welfare in there, sorry love.

“Oligopolies, market power abuses to drive out competition – that’s the glory of this free market thing.”

And the internet is the sort of disruptive technology which wipes out previous oligopolies.

10. Luis Enrique

Strategist:

Oligopolies, market power abuses to drive out competition – that’s the glory of this free market thing.

Adam Smith

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

conclusion: free markets work best in an institutional setting that does what it can to watch out for and disrupt oligopolistic conspiracies against the public.

(regrettably, sometimes the left-wing endorses such conspiracies on the basis that they are “protecting jobs” which can veer very close to protecting vested interests)

11. Luis Enrique

oh rats, another blockquote mishap

Tim – it has got to be good that a potential monopoly is challenged. If Housmans can be anywhere near as efficient as Amazon, great! They will need a very fast, secure website that recognises users, the equivalent of one-click which saves us a huge amount of fiddly time, and fast, reliable packing and posting. They may also need to supply DVDs and other high value items to cover their costs. I wish them well.

Ha, hilarious bloggertarian Tim Worstall attacks a small company for… trying to challenge a monopoly and introduce competition into a market. A free market. Who would’ve thought he was such a hypocrite?

“And the internet is the sort of disruptive technology which wipes out previous oligopolies.”

Great to see Worstall supportung the role of the state, seeing as the state created the internet. Or rather the American state. But still the state.

I guess if it had been left to Tim we would not have had the internet.

Only thing is that amazon blatently isn’t a monopoly retailer. People shouldn’t mistake high Market share for monopoly. I can buy just about anything on amazon somewhere else, sometimes cheaper if I am prepared to shop around. It has no license to be the only retailer in the UK or wherever, so is always subject to challenge if it gets lazy. That is not a monopoly player which almost always requires government licensing to be created.

16. So Much For Subtlety

5. damon- “Housemans used to sell ‘Red Action’ who were unequivocal supporters of the Provisional IRA. I think they also sold An Phoblacht – Republican News which is the Sinn Fein weekly newspaper”

So not pacifists any more. The Quakers ain’t what they used to be. They seem to think it is possible to reconcile their pacifism with letting Islamists use their buildings and these seem to think it is possible to help fund terrorism.

“God knows how they kept going just on people actually purchasing at the shop.”

They probably don’t. Libya used to subsidise a lot of people. So did the USSR.

The Quakers ain’t what they used to be. They seem to think it is possible to reconcile their pacifism with letting Islamists use their buildings and these seem to think it is possible to help fund terrorism.

Damn, you’ve caught them out, So Much For Subtlety. All 25,000 banded together to veto those meetings. And – heck – you can’t move in my local Friend’s House for Islamists; it’s like they’ve set up a cosy little Caliphate right there and then.

I don’t think Friends Meeting House should allow Hezbollah hang-ons or shills for Shariah use their space, but these clunking generalisations feel so…smug (“Hah! Who’s the pacifist now, hipppehs?“).

(By the way – idle spinoff from Damon‘s post – why is the NCP, which lauds Kim Jong and Uncle Joe Stalin, an affiliate of the LRC? I mean, I’m all for big tents, but when you’ve got a great, crowded one it’s best not to let in the lamentably flatulent.)

Ach, sorry, I mean approve rather than veto.

(Note to self: never post comments immediately after waking up.)


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