Barnes & Noble Throw a Tantrum Over Amazon

The L.A. Times has reported that Barnes & Noble will no longer sell in its bricks and mortar stores any books published by Amazon. This is because, according to Barnes & Noble, Amazon are undermining the book industry using exclusivity.

So, to summarise, Barnes & Noble are throwing their toys out of the pram.

Let’s not beat around the bush; if B&N were in Amazon’s shoes, they’d push as hard for exclusivity and more. But Amazon has come along and beaten them at their own game. They’re pushing hard for their share and that’s great. Amazon are doing exactly what any competitor should do, which is to do it better for less. They’re challenging the status quo and innovating the market. And now B&N have a choice: go the way of the dinosaur, or step up to the plate and challenge Amazon right back.

Is refusing to stock their books the way? No. It’s juvenile and pathetic. At best it takes choice away from the reader. At worst it drives them into Amazon’s arms.

B&N, and any bricks and mortar store, already have an advantage over Amazon: they have a physical presence in the customer’s world. They can offer a human touch, personal recommendations, a haven for books and the book-lovers. At the moment, the status quo seem to view these stores as an albatross around their necks. But they need to embrace them and turn them into an advantage. Most importantly they need to start thinking and innovating too, instead of treating it as business as normal punctuated with a few tantrums.

Because, at this rate, the only books they’ll be selling are their own. Which would be zero.

6 thoughts on “Barnes & Noble Throw a Tantrum Over Amazon

  1. Farah Ng @ Broken Penguins

    Sometimes I wonder if the people at the top of these big bookstores know what they’re up against with Amazon. It will take creativity to stay in business, not hissy-fits, that’s for sure. Does Amazon publish paperbooks under a different name? I’ve never seen an Amazon publishing logo on a book… is that because I’m in Canada?

  2. Siobhan

    Let’s be fair though, Amazon are destroying small book shops and large book shops alike. Amazon cut prices to the extent where they are selling books at a loss just to undercut the other book shops. As a writer I’m surprised that doesn’t concern you on several fronts. It undervalues writers work, stops writers profiting from their hard work and means that publishers can’t afford to invest in new talent.

    A tantrum? Maybe, but I wish more people would have one like it.

    1. Farah Ng @ Broken Penguins

      I don’t see how this block actually helps writers. It might be making a statement in the publishing world but it’s a statement that most customers will never hear about. Most customers will go to the store, find out the title isn’t available and buy it off Amazon. Some customers might get really annoyed and never shop there again. Bookstores need to stand up to Amazon by attracting more customers into their stores.

      1. James T Kelly

        Hi guys, thanks for commenting. You’re both making some excellent points!

        Siobhan, I absolutely agree that Amazon shouldn’t be allowed to create a monopoly. That would be bad for both readers and writers. I’m not calling on B&N to step up because I want to save the stores, but because I want them to challenge Amazon properly. Competition doesn’t just encourage innovation, it keeps the players in check.

        That said I can’t get angry that Amazon are selling books cheaply, or even at a loss. That’s a perfectly valid way of entering the market and it’s worked for them. Does it devalue books? I don’t think do, any more than second-hand bookshops devalue them. Does it hurt writers’ incomes? That’s down to the contract they signed with their publisher, not Amazon. Booksellers always have promotions or deals, do it’s up to agents to ensure that bookseller discounts don’t hurt the writer’s bottom line.

        Farah, good to see you again! I think you and I are largely on the same page. Your description of Chapters-Indigo makes me think of a chain we have here in the UK called WH Smith. They’re a chain of bookshops that started diversifying years ago. Unfortunately they went too far, and now they’re a jack of all trades and very much a master of none. Yet, ironically, I think diversification is one of the reasons Amazon has done so well!

        And in answer to your question, Amazon have a number of publishing imprints including 47North and Thomas & Mercer. There’s more information about Amazon’s publishing imprints here.

  3. Siobhan

    I think that’s the problem. Most customers don’t go into the store any more. That’s why all the physical book shops are being forced to close. It’s all very well to say that they should attract customers into stores, so many have wonderful activities on. My local bookshop certainly does. But when there’s a recession on and Amazon are selling books at a third of the price or less, and losing money doing so because they can afford to in order to eliminate all the competition, how can they be expected to compete? They are attempting to create a monopoly on information by controlling what books are sold and now what books are published. Any writer who values the freedom to experiment with style rather than churn out tried and tested formulaic novels, or write anything other than the mindless gunk which fit the demands of the Twilight generation would surely want to avoid publishing with Amazon when they can see where this has the potential to go.

  4. Farah Ng @ Broken Penguins

    There is much danger if Amazon becomes the only bookseller. But publishers and bookstores have repeatedly tried to boycott Amazon in various ways but it hasn’t really helped their already dwindling sales.

    The major bookstore we have near me is Chapters-Indigo and it’s been successful in getting return customers by selling giftware, home decor and magazines. Their main business is books and they have an excellent selection but I think they (and Amazon) know that they can’t survive on book sales alone.

    I don’t know what the answer is but hopefully the smartest people in the industry can put their heads together and think of something better than this.


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