Friday, November 18, 2011

The British Library Steps in It

The venerable British Library has been accused of "undermining struggling independent book shops by piloting a website initiative that redirects visitors to Amazon to purchase titles," according to an article in The Independent. Independent bookstores in England, like their counterparts in the United States, have been struggling to survive because of competition from Amazon, which can sell books more cheaply thanks to its ability to buy books in large quantities.

The library's online catalogue lists more than 13 million of the more than 150 million titles owned by the library. The website's newly refurbished search system now offers browsers the option of clicking on "This item in", which redirects users to a page where they can buy a copy of the book from the online retailer.

British booksellers feel that the move by the British Library undercuts them and threatens the very existence of independent bookstores in England, despite their "cultural and educational value." At the same time, they are worried about the effect of tablet computers and e-readers on their business. The Booksellers Association has been lobbying the government to lend its support, and launched the Keep Books on the High Street campaign in October as a way to dramatize the plight of independent bookstores in England.

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