January 8, 2014
Amazon to charge delivery on book orders under £10
by Zeljka Marosevic
As of yesterday, Amazon.co.uk changed the terms of its Super Saver Delivery offer and began charging delivery on book orders under £10, the Bookseller reports. Before yesterday, small items such as books, films, music, games and software that cost under £10 would be delivered to customers completely free of charge in 3-5 working days. But now the delivery terms of these items have been altered to align with the terms of all of its other products, which stopped qualifying for this free delivery back in July of last year. In the US, orders must exceed $35 and include items that qualify for free shipping to be delivered for free.
A few things immediately jump out from this development. Firstly, the madness of the previous Super Saver Delivery offer, which meant that, for example, a £7.99 paperback could be first discounted to more than half off at £3.85, and then sent to the customer for free when the cost of a second class parcel is £2.60, meaning the book in question would cost the customer the grand total of £1.25. Sometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves what we’re up against.
Next, it’s possible that this is a small win for independent bookshops and the high street. The lowest delivery price Amazon now gives me if I want that same book is £2.75, pushing the book’s total cost to £6.60. Yes, it’s still cheaper, but not astronomically so, like previously. Plus, Amazon still isn’t warm and cosy, with human beings who pay their taxes, unlike all the bookshops I know.
The detrimental powers of free delivery were proved in France in October, when French lawmakers passed a law making it illegal to offer free delivery on books that had already been discounted (we covered the story here). The law was a major part of a whole anti-Amazon and pro-independent bookshops campaign spearheaded by French Cultural Minister Aurélie Filippetti.
However, to be sure, Amazon hasn’t made this move to give independent bookshops a break in 2014. These delivery charges will surely encourage some customers to simply add further items to their order to push them past the £10 mark, thus buying more books from Amazon and fewer from say, that nice shop on the corner with the cool window displays. And, delivery will still be free for many hardback books; for example, a £14.99 hardback reduced to £10.34 still qualifies for free delivery.
And not only this, but as the Bookseller suggests, Amazon.co.uk is surely hoping to push customers towards its Amazon Prime scheme, which, for £49 a year, offers customers “Unlimited FREE One-Day Delivery on millions of eligible items”, ‘No minimum order size” and “Over 350,000 popular Kindle Books to borrow for free, with no due dates.” Who needs £6.60 paperbacks when you can have the book, on Kindle, for free?!
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.