Amazon launches UK incarnation

Bookpages, the British online bookseller acquired by Seattle-based market leader Amazon.com in April, has relaunched under the Amazon.co.uk brand, promising UK book buyers it will match the price discounting of its American parent.

According to Bookpages founder Dr Simon Murdoch: “We will be aiming to quote prices equivalent to those in the US, after delivery is taken into account. People in Britain should get the same deal as ordering from the States, with better delivery times. We have done a lot of analysis on this, and pricing for people buying through Amazon.co.uk should be no worse.”

The company, which has re-located its headquarters and fulfilment centre to Slough, also hopes to gain sales by supplying up to 200,000 UK book titles not normally available in the US to the American market, through links on the homepage of Amazon.com.

Murdoch claims the discounting strategy, of up to 40 per cent off high street prices, is aimed at building overall books sales and is not a direct threat to high street stores. But the pricing stance, combined with an expected aggressive online promotional strategy through major UK sites, will put pressure on UK rivals.

The Amazon.co.uk launch will be followed later this week by the unveiling of a merchandising Website by publisher HarperCollins, branded fireandwater (www.fireandwater.com). The site will offer direct purchasing across the publisher’s range of imprints.

A growing number of publishers are setting up their own Websites to market and sell their titles direct to the online public, says Murdoch. But he insists such sites are complementary to, rather than competing with, online bookstores in the online market.

“Customers often don’t know which publishers publish particular titles or authors,” he says. “Publishers may try to promote their books through their own Websites, but buyers will usually still need to go to an online bookshop to find the title.”

Mark Bishop, manager of online services at HarperCollins, says many publishers to date have seen their Websites as promotional rather than sales tool for their title ranges.

“Most publishers have added an ordering facility, but I would question their commitment to this,” he says. The fireandwater branded site will offer free postage and packaging on sales priced at titles’ normal cover price.

But the site’s strategy will be centred around trying to exploit the publisher’s ties with popular authors, says Bishop. “The mistake publishers have made is to try to imitate the success of sites like Amazon. But as the publisher, we are closer to the authors and can bring readers closer and allow them to speak to the author,” he says.

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