The state of Iowa is in the process of removing a direct link to Amazon.com from the homepage of its official web site (http://www.iowa.gov). Under the new policy, visitors who click on the prominently placed graphic, “Looking for books about Iowa? Click Here Now,” will be directed instead to a page with links to both Amazon.com and Booksense.com, an e-commerce site for independent bookstores.
The decision followed a letter sent by the owners of nine Iowa bookstores. “For the state government of Iowa to send business out of state is bad enough, but to then compound the problem by further draining state sales tax revenues is unconscionable,” they wrote. Federal policy exempts out-of-state web and mail order firms from collecting state and local sales tax.
Iowa’s director of digital government, Dan Combs, said that the state had also received a number of letters from concerned citizens. He said there had been no “detailed thought process” regarding the decision to link to Amazon.com. The state receives a percentage of any sales resulting from the link through Amazon.com’s affiliate program.
Booksense.com offers a comparable affiliate program. Launched 18 months ago, Booksense.com was created by the American Booksellers Association, a trade group representing some 3,500 independent bookstores. The site offers more than two million titles. Purchases are credited to the customer’s nearest participating bookstore, based on his or her zip code.
Currently 500 nonprofit organizations, businesses, and authors link to Booksense.com through its affiliate program. About five percent of the site’s total sales are driven by these links.