Why Be An Amazon Affiliate?

Max runs down some reasons why he uses Amazon for his book links on The Millions. I don't want to rehash all his points, but I agree with all of them, and if this is something you think about, you should see what he says. Basically, this is the heart of the matter:

When it is suggested that we link to an "indie" when we link to books, the implication is that The Millions is a shopping site and that we can by our linking policy direct people where to shop. But the reality is that The Millions,
like many sites that affiliate with Amazon, has an editorial rather
than an "advertorial" mission, and one reason we link to Amazon is
because it offers the most information about the books we write about,
whether we recommend them or deplore them them. As long-time blogger Matthew Cheney put it recently, "I want a link to give you the most information and options with the fewest clicks."

To his list of reasons, I'll also add one more: reporting. Hands down, Amazon gives me the most information about how I'm doing as an affiliate. With Amazon I can get up-to-the-day sales info and also track it historically. I can know which links are working, how many people clicked what, how they got to the page (although everything is kept completely anonymous). This is a great source of info: for one thing, it has absolutely helped me fine-tune how I use links on this site. For another, I've discovered many new books this way. And it also lets me know when I've discussed books that people are excited about and when I've bored them.

By contrast, Powell's only gives me sales info, which in my opinion is the bare minimum that anyone offering an affiliate program should think of giving. Any less than that, however, and we have a problem. If you're leaving your affiliates in the dark as to something so basic as how much they're earning off your program, you're failing.

Unfortunately, by that measure IndieBound is failing. I recently added an IndieBound searchbox to give readers the alternative to buy books through IndieBound and still support this site and The Quarterly Conversation, but I am disappointed to say that I have completely no idea if 1 or 10 or 100,000 of you have bought a book through my searchbox. IndieBound offers no way to tell whatsoever. (If Amazon did this I can only imagine the consipracy theories of affiliate-cheating that would be on the Internet right now.)

I will grant IndieBound the fact that it's a new site and will possibly improve this in the future, but I sincerely hope that this functionality is in the works.


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Wow did not know IndieBound doesn’t provide that information. My merchant who sells health and beauty products would never allow that to happen because you are basically hiding from your affiliates.

I’ve stuck with Amazon for the same reasons. I’d much rather support Powell’s or IndieBound or even LibraryThing, but none of them works nearly as well as Amazon. Another reason is the easy integration with TypePad for creating book list widgets.
There’s a company called Adaptive Blue that has some sort of book link code that on mouse-over pops up a choice of what store to go to. I looked into it a while back as an alternative but decided it was too heavyweight/obtrusive. Otherwise it’s a nice concept that could help with some of these issues, I think.

Kevin,
Max makes the good point that a lot of indie stores do make money off of Amazon through used and new sales, so helping Amazon does occasionally help them.
However, how cool would it be if IndieBound could set up a similar interface that indies could use to do the same, but on better terms?
I think this is the issue: A lot of us sympathize with indies more, and in fact we want a counterweight to Amazon, but the problem is that no one has yet stepped up to offer a service that works nearly as well. Amazonfail revealed a lot of pent up anger, and a Barnes & Noble, or a consortium of indies, could definitely take advantage of that sentiment if they created a service that could seriously compete with Amazon.

Thanks for addressing this. I responded to Max’s post so I won’t repeat it here, but since you raised some additional concerns I wanted to respond to those as well.
About two weeks ago we made some updates to our affiliate program and let everyone know that online sales tracking is coming soon. Previously a report was sent along with payment. Now we’re undergoing a huge migration for all ABA IndieCommerce sites to an open-source platform, and online options for tracking and reporting will be available once enough sites have transitioned. We’re also working on widgets for affiliate links, and hope to work with WordPress and TypePad on integrating that code into their templates.
Regarding used book sellers: some indies sell used books through AbeBooks; that’s their choice. Many sell through Alibris, an alternative site. We couldn’t provide an avenue for ABA member stores to compete with each other on price, which is the nature of those sites. IndieBound is for new books only, and that won’t change.
Thanks for including us as an alternative search. Like I wrote to Max, independents aren’t asking for exclusivity, only to be included as a choice. IndieBound.org is a huge, ongoing project that we’re constantly working on, so feedback is helpful.

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