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Sunday, 13 May 2012

The great Amazon witch-hunt

Great sections of the book industry, from publishers to retailers, are repeating the mistakes of the music business and are going for Amazon with all guns blazing. The online giant is being blamed for the rapid demise of the book industry and instead of innovating and taking a dip in the Amazon, the book industry are determined to fight Amazon despite the outcome being largely inevitable.

Recently bestselling author and librarian, Nancy Pearl's name has been rubbished by both publishers and book sellers, for republishing several out of print works with Amazon. The Seattle Mystery Bookshop attacked Pearl in a blog post - One of the first books [in Pearl's line] to be released is Merle Miller's A Gay and Meloncholy Sound (we know nothing about this book and have just picked it as an example). Amazon notes that it will be available on April 2nd at a list price of $14.95. However, they're selling it for $8.97, a 40% savings. You save $5.98. If you buy the e-book version for Kindle (something you cannot do through us), you pay only $5.99. You see, they're not only undercutting any other bookseller, they're also undercutting themselves...Thus, it is uneconomical for us to stock and sell printed books published by Amazon and we believe it would be financially pointless for any independent to do so. (And, again, while we can sell e-books through our new website, no one but Amazon can sell the versions for Kindle - that is proprietary) If you can't realistically make money selling something, why stock it? You can't and expect to keep your business healthy. 


The simple truth is that Pearl tried for many months to launch a series of out of print books with conventional publishers , but was turned down as many didn't think the range which goes by the title,  Book Lust Rediscoveries will bring long out of print books back into the market as eBooks and each will feature an introduction by Nancy Pearl. Nothing wrong with that, surely but the fact is that some booksellers and librarians simply can't stand or anything that touches.

 Details of the book line can be found HERE

Barnes and Noble have also said that they will not stock any of Amazon's print books in their stores, because they are annoyed that Amazon have set up their own publishing imprints. This would seem an empty gesture though since Amazon books are still available through Barnes and Noble digital stores. Books a Million, the US's second largest book retailer after Barnes and Noble, have taken a similar stance.  Retail giant Target, also declared war on Amazon and  announced it would stop selling Amazon's  Kindle devices, which include the Kindle e-reader, the Kindle Fire tablet computer, and all the Kindle's accompanying accessories. Target is dropping the Kindle over a cryptic "conflict of interest," but the big-box retailer will continue to carry Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader and Apple's  iPad. The seemingly aggressive move has fueled speculation that Target is targeting Amazon, which has emerged as an existential threat to physical retailers.

However Amazon don't seem too fussed by all this and there are rumours that Amazon are to open their own bricks and mortar superstore in Seattle home of Barnes and Noble. It makes perfect sense that Amazon will do this and that the shops will offer both Kindle eReaders and Fire tablets on site, and price these cheaply enough that the devices could become impulse buys.

Amazon are unbeatable and the ironic thing is that now that Barnes and Noble and other book giants are losing market share, small independent bookstores seem to be making a come back. It was the likes of Barns and Nobles, Borders and Books a Million that were not that long ago portrayed as the bad guys who were strangling the smaller independents. The shoe is on the other foot now that Amazon have gotten so big and the book chains don't like it, in fact they hate it.

It  seems certain that Amazon will open its own brick-and-mortar store later this year. Multiple news outlets (citing unnamed sources) are reporting that Amazon’s first physical store will open sometime this year in Seattle. According to the reports, the store will be smaller than a traditional big-box chain like a Barnes & Noble, and will mostly feature high-end products and Amazon exclusives.

Kindle beater?
The thing that the big chains don't seem to realize is that the only people that matter in all this are book readers, the customers themselves and Amazon provide a service that book buyers seem to like. The company are constantly innovating and the Kindle device is a triumph, though for once the Nook with its new glow screen has taken a march on the Kinde, but the next version of Amazons device will feature a similar light added to its eInk screen. Amazon's Digital Publishing platform is also loved by many and is starting to bring new bestsellers out of the woodwork. Amazon most certainly have a future and  if other booksellers and publishers want a future themselves, then they need to stop squabbling with Amazon and start inovating.

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