October 15, 2020

“BoxedOut” campaign to warn customers of costs of shopping on Amazon this season


Cafe con Libros in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. October 14, 2020.

For the last couple of days, Americans stopped squabbling, put aside their differences, and gathered ’round the table as family for the harvest of Amazon Prime. Prime Day–as the annual event is called despite spanning the 13th and 14th–consists of site-wide sales available to all Prime users in recognition of their long year of toil in the scrolling fields in order to provide the online retailer with up to the minute data on consumer behavior.

Last year the sale served as an occasion for fulfillment center employees to walk out in protest of unsafe and unfair working conditions. This year the American Bookseller Association (ABA) is using the event as a springboard for their anti-Amazon, “Boxed Out” campaign.

The initiative is an attempt to make it clear to consumers just how negatively it will effect indie booksellers–many of which are hanging on by a thread after a full year of Covid slowdowns and Amazon dominance–if people do their holiday book shopping on Amazon.

As Shelf Awareness writes of the multi-faceted campaign:

Timed in part as a counterpoint to Amazon Prime Day–yesterday and today–“Boxed Out” refers to the ubiquitous Amazon delivery boxes that are “boxing out” bookstores and other small businesses across the country, the association said.

The key elements of “Boxed Out” are a social media campaign, posters and other material as well as major “Boxed Out” displays. Six bookstores–McNally Jackson, New York City; Greenlight Bookstore, Café con Libros and Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Solid State Books, Washington, D.C.; and Book Soup, West Hollywood, Calif.–are setting the standard by using custom-made signage to cover their front windows, and setting piles of boxes on sidewalks outside.

Really, the campaign is a  wake up call: if you keep shopping this way you will lose the bookstores you (used to) love. It’s that bad, and we’ve reached the tipping point.

So find a new favorite bookstore using the #BoxedOut and #ShopIndie tags, and do what you can to support them this holiday season. Bonus points for doing your shopping early–both to get that cash flowing ASAP, and to allow the booksellers adequate time to work out their still-new mail order processes, and navigate the new (and ugly) publishing supply chain realities.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.