A letter from Chris Morrow of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, followed by letters from other local independent booksellers, recently convinced Vermont Public Radio (VPR) to remove a link to Amazon.com from its website, www.vpr.net/, and to replace it with one to BookSense.com. The link is located at the top of VPR's Summer Reading Suggestions page. "[The Amazon link] was inappropriate considering that a number of VPR's [underwriters] are independent booksellers," said Morrow, who became aware of the situation in mid-June. Soon after, he penned a letter to Mark Vogelzang, VPR's president and general manager.
In the letter, Morrow wrote: "We find it questionable that the books mentioned in the summer reading piece are listed on your website with links to Amazon.com.... Your choice in this matter raises an interesting question: How does it fit with VPR's Values Statement which reads, in part, 'As a leading independent nonprofit institution in Vermont whose foundation is based on independence, innovation, and integrity...?'
"If VPR is an independent institution whose very foundation is truly based on independence, then we would suggest that part of your responsibility is to support independents in other sectors of the Vermont economic and cultural landscape. It is our considered opinion, that by linking to Amazon.com, a borderless entity that represents the greatest threat to independent bookstores across the country, you betray your own values statement.
"As an alternative, you can provide a list of links to all Vermont bookstores with websites, a link to www.booksense.com, which is run by the American Booksellers Association, or at least give viewers an option besides Amazon.com.... VPR and the state's independent bookstores share many goals. It is important that we support each other in our efforts to foster cultural enrichment through the dissemination of information and entertainment to fellow Vermonters."
Morrow also sent a copy of his letter to other Vermont booksellers who, he said, "followed up with their own letters [to Vogelzang]."
The letters worked -- and quickly. Morrow's letter was sent on June 17. On Monday, June 20, he received a call from Vogelzang who told him the link was changed.
Leah Hollenberger, a spokesperson for VPR, told BTW that, when the station was creating the Summer Readings Suggestion page, "we thought it would be great to put a link right there...." The decision to use Amazon resulted, in part, from the speed with which the page was created. "It was immediate -- let's provide a link -- let's get it out there."
However, after receiving the correspondence from several independent booksellers, an even quicker decision was made to change the link from Amazon to BookSense.com. "If we could provide the same service, but do it locally, [we decided] let's do it. VPR has had a long, healthy relationship with independent booksellers. VPR is all about community." -- David Grogan