As launches in Sweden, EIBF reminds of the importance of a level playing field

  • 29/10/2020

EIBF calls for a level playing field for booksellers, as Amazon enters the Nordics

On Wednesday, 28 October 2020, has officially opened for business in Sweden, marking the retail giant’s first entry to the Nordic market. The site is offering customers more than 150 million products across 30 categories, including books, consumer electronics, sports and outdoor, tools and toys, among others. The products are coming from thousands of European and local Swedish businesses.

The Swedish bookselling industry, especially within the digital sphere, faces a tough new competitor. However, the book market in Sweden today is largely digitalised already, as opposed to other countries where Amazon established operations much earlier. With these different circumstances, Amazon could find it more challenging to disrupt the book market in Sweden.

Maria Hamrefors, Chair of the Swedish Booksellers Association (Svenska Bokhandlareföreningen) and EIBF board member remains calm, yet also prudent with Amazon’s arrival. “There have been speculations about Amazon's launch in Sweden for more than ten years now and today it finally happened. Online retails is already the major sales channel in our market, with two local players offering a broad assortment of books at very competitive prices with speedy deliveries, so Amazon does not really bring anything new to the market from that perspective. From what I have seen today, the site is full of poorly translated content, high prices and strange recommendations. Day one of business here, and they are laughed at on social media, but we do, of course, need to take them seriously long term.”

While a new entry to the Nordics, the bookselling sector elsewhere has been facing competition from Amazon for a while now. With operations in 18 countries and 89 warehouses in Europe only, Amazon enjoys a dominant position in the online book market. However, initiatives from independent booksellers and booksellers associations are gaining tractions. Highlighting the unique experience one can find in a bookshop and the importance of such shops within their local communities, they remind readers of the essential part they play in providing a service that Amazon will never be able to provide. Among others, we have recently seen shop local campaigns, buy in-store initiatives, and buy early calls, as the holiday season approaches. 

All these initiatives need to be supported by political and legislative frameworks, as only in that way we can ensure a fair market where all players play by the same rules: from small- and medium-sized companies to big corporations. 

“Bookselling is a busy market, where all actors do not operate on an equal footing. While local businesses rely more and more on Amazon marketplaces to reach a wider audience, the terms and conditions imposed by the platform are considered by many as an abuse of dominant position. As a result, we have seen various probes against Amazon both in Europe and the United States in recent months. It will take strong political drive to bend the curve and to ensure that all players have equal opportunities,” said Fabian Paagman, EIBF’s co-President.

With the launch of and Christmas celebrations around the corner, the time is right for EIBF and its members to call on decisions makers to regulate the behaviour of dominant tech giants and to support fair competition. 

Photo: Christian Wiediger/Unsplash