Dan Combs, director of digital government for the State of Iowa, has told Bookselling This Week that Iowas Information Technology Department (ITD) is in the process of moving the direct link to Amazon.com from the homepage of its official state Web site, www.iowa.gov. This feature will be replaced by a link directing consumers to a new page that will include links to both Amazon.com and BookSense.com, the e-commerce component of the Book Sense national marketing campaign.
ITDs decision came very soon after owners and managers of nine ABA member bookstores wrote Governor Tom Vilsack and ITD expressing disappointment with the link (for more on the letter to the Governor, click here.)
Links to the online retailers will be contained on a separate page within the site, reachable via a link on Iowas homepage. Currently, the link to Amazon.com, placed prominently at the top of the Iowa homepage, states, "Looking for books about Iowa? Click Here Now," though it does not mention the online retailing giant by name.
In their letter, the Iowa booksellers expressed disappointment that the state would send consumers, who are interested in books about Iowa, out-of-state -- especially considering that Amazon.com does not collect state sales tax. In addition to the letter from ABA member stores in Iowa, Combs said that ITD had received a number of complaints from people "worried about booksellers" in Iowa.
For his part, Combs said that there was no "detailed thought process" regarding the Amazon.com link. The link was added in March after a search by ITD for an advertiser or sponsor for the homepage. The move began two years ago, after the Iowa legislature instructed Combss agency to find funds to support its own projects, such as Iowas Web site. At that time, Combs said, a niche was carved out on the homepage for the future advertiser/sponsor, and, as Combs explained to BTW, that area was simply considered commercial space.
ITD settled on Amazon.com because the online bookseller "made it easy for us," said Combs. He explained that Amazon.com has an automated function on its Web site that allows other sites to easily download its link onto their homepage. ITD gets a percentage of sales obtained through the homepage link, which, since March, has amounted to less than $100, he noted.
As of press time, Combs did not have a timeframe as to when the new page would be complete, only saying that they were in the process of designing it. --David Grogan