Late last month Amazon launched a new venture, AmazonSmile, to enable people to donate 0.5% of their purchases to the nonprofit charity of their choice by logging on to the Amazon Web site through smile.amazon.com and selecting one of nearly a million Guide Star-approved charities. The customer doesn’t receive a tax credit, since donations are handled by the Amazon Smile Foundation, but they can use their purchasing power to give back.
That may all sound well and good, but what happens when a publishing house is nonprofit and one of its biggest donors wants it to encourage other supporters to shop on Amazon to garner more donations? That’s what Island Press in Washington, D.C., which publishes books on environmental issues, recently faced.
Island sent out an e-mail blast before Thanksgiving and asked supporters to bookmark AmazonSmile, and when they’re shopping on Amazon, use the Island link. The e-mail, which was posted on listservs for the New England Independent Booksellers and Northern California Independent Booksellers Associations, irritated some booksellers. “We walk a very fine line between being a not-for-profit and a publisher,” explained Julie Marshall, v-p, director of sales at Island. “Amazon created a program. It’s not something we sought out. We weren’t even aware of it until one of our donors came forward and asked us to participate.” As she sees it, AmazonSmile is just one potential source of revenue for the press.
But that doesn’t mean Island is abandoning indies. “We’ve done a lot of things at the request of independent booksellers, and we’ll continue to do so,” says Marshall. She points to sales rep incentives, and events discounts as among the opportunities Island has created for the indie marketplace.
As for AmazonSmile, this week it upped the ante to entice e-book readers to shop through the site by offering a $20 charitable donation from Tuesday through Sunday (December 3-8) for those who order a Kindle Fire HDX. The first AmazonSmile purchases were not book related: a Beach TrueAir Compact Pet Air Purifier and Bravo-fit Premium Shoe Stretchers.