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Barnes and Noble was considered the “brutal capitalist” of booksellers

25 February 2012

From All About Romance:

While Amazon is considered a disruptor company for many of the changes today – hated by independent book store owners and publishers, especially after they promoted their price-check app over the Christmas holidays, in the 80’s and 90’s Barnes and Noble was considered the “brutal capitalist” of booksellers. And its history is extremely interesting, considering what has been happening in the book world of late. Barnes and Noble was the first major bookseller to discount books, by selling The New York Times best-selling titles at 40% off the publishers’ list price. In the eighties they bought up chain book stores like B. Dalton, Doubleday Book Shops, and Bookstop. In 1998 they tried to purchase Ingram Book Group Inc., the largest book wholesaler in the United States but were unable to do so because of antitrust concerns. Supposedly one reason Waldenbooks and Borders opened so many stores was to keep up with Barnes and Noble’s superstores.

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In 1998 Barnes & Noble got sued by the American Booksellers Association and 26 independent bookstores who claimed that Barnes & Noble and Borders had violated antitrust laws by using their buying power to demand from publishers “illegal and secret” discounts and then in 2003 Barnes and Noble was the first bookseller to publish its own line after acquiring Sterling Publishing Co., the nation’s largest publisher of how-to books, competing side by side with Modern Library and Penguin Classics.

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The article, The Bookstore’s Last Stand, talks about how Macmillan, Penguin, and Random House all feel a “ sense of unease about the long-term fate of Barnes & Noble, the last major bookstore chain standing.” Of course these are the same publishing companies that are defendants in class action law suit brought by Hagens Bermans, the law firm representing eBook purchasers.

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Barnes and Noble and Book- A- Million and many independent booksellers refuse to stock books published by Amazon. While some view this as a smart move, Michael Souers an analyst at S&P’s Capital IQ, in this article from Time views the move as a way for B&N to firmly side with traditional publishers. “It’s kind of a symbolic gesture, one meant to ingratiate themselves with publishers,” Souers says. “And publishers are upset with Amazon for trying to cut them out of the process.”

Magellan Media Partners’ analyst Brian O’Leary feels that it’s foolish for Barnes & Noble to attempt to punish Amazon by dropping titles where Amazon has a special deal with the publisher. “In general” he said, “it’s a mistake for any author or publisher to create scarcity in the channel. It sends the wrong message to readers.”

Link to the rest at All About Romance

Amazon, Big Publishing, Bookstores

4 Comments to “Barnes and Noble was considered the “brutal capitalist” of booksellers”

  1. That is what I find funny about all the cozying up to B&N by publishers. I remember when everyone was decrying B&N as the scourge of independent bookstores and a threat to publishing houses. Personally, I used to love the store–it had the best selection and a cafe to boot. How things have changed.

  2. So, did the Authors Guild put up blogs back in the day about the evils of B&N? The company they’re now championing against Amazon?

  3. I just love the smell of irony in the morning.

  4. Hm. Sounds like Karma, really. Slow in coming, and served very, very cold.

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