Home » Amazon, Bookstores » Barnes & Noble won’t stock books published by Amazon in stores

Barnes & Noble won’t stock books published by Amazon in stores

1 February 2012

From the Los Angeles Times:

Bookseller Barnes & Noble volleyed another shot at rival Amazon.com  by announcing that the chain will stop selling books in its stores published by the Internet retail giant.

Jaime Carey, chief merchandising officer at Barnes & Noble, said in a statement Tuesday that Amazon had “undermined” the book industry by pushing for exclusive deals with authors, agents and publishers.

. . . .

“Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content,” Carey said. “It’s clear to us that Amazon has proven they would not be a good publishing partner to Barnes & Noble as they continue to pull content off the market for their own self interest. We don’t get many requests for Amazon titles, but if customers wish to buy Amazon titles from us, we will make them available only online at bn.com.”

Link to the rest at the Los Angeles Times

Amazon, Bookstores

42 Comments to “Barnes & Noble won’t stock books published by Amazon in stores”

  1. And Amazon is the death of reading and hostile toward readers and bad for authors?

  2. I wonder if this ban includes CreateSpace ISBN titles too or just the Amazon publishing imprints? (Not that B&N was stocking CreateSpace titles anyway).

    • No, this is just the Amazon Imprints — Thomas & Mercer, 45 North, Montlake, etc.

      Most stores will not ‘stock’ CreateSpace titles ever, because there is no returnability on POD. They can, however, order one for a customer if the title is in the expanded distribution program. (Now costs $25 for a title to be listed with various distributors like Ingram, Baker&Taylor, etc.)

      • I’m not sure about CreateSpace, but a publisher can choose to accept returns with POD using Lightning Source–it just usually isn’t economically feasible to accept returns.

        • True, I made a blanket statement there~ CreateSpace doesn’t have a POD return plan (as far as I can find), but as you said, Lightning Source does, and possibly Lulu as well? But carrying POD books is still not something you see bookstores doing much of — if any. Exceptions are out there, like my local indie who stocks my books and pays me up front when I hand-carry copies in to them. But they’re special that way. 🙂

          • I think concerns about hard copy distribution are becoming irrelevant. I know plenty of people still love hard copy books, but I think paper pulp books are going the way of the vinyl record album: an artifact to be purchased and cherished only by collectors, if fondly remembered by the rest of us.

            I can’t remember the last time I bought a “hard copy” CD, because the cost and convenience factors of going totally digital are simply too compelling. I’ve gone mostly digital with my book purchases (both ebook and audiobook) already, too. The generation currently in their 20’s probably includes a majority who’ve never owned a hard copy CD; to this group and younger, digital media is the norm. They have no cultural, nostalgic, or other barriers to adopting digital books entirely.

  3. What is Barnes and Noble? Is it for noblemen readers only?

  4. So they are angry that Amazon is limiting access to content and they are going to rectify this problem by…limiting access to content. mm-kay. I think I detect a pot/kettle problem.

  5. I seem to recall a great many titles, especially anthologies, published by Barnes and Noble about 10-15 years ago that were only available in B&N. What’s the difference? Other than B&N isn’t the one getting the $$$.

    One wonders if this move won’t be used as justification to reduce shelf space for books again later this year so toys and games can expand.

  6. P.G.

    Traditional Seppuku is attended by a second carrying a Katana to sweep off the head when the pain is too great to bear.

    Methinks B@N will need no second.


  7. The buried lede here is that B&N, by taking this high moral stand, isn’t going to start an exclusivity program themselves. That would be fighting fire with fire. This is fighting fire by deploying air-fresheners to counteract the stink of smoke.

    • I think of the tactic as a kind of passive aggressive shot at authors who are thinking about using Kindle Select or the Amazon publishing imprints.

      • I still don’t understand the allure of that program. Sure, Amazon may have a decent chunk of the market, but it’s not the only game in town by far.

        Has it helped a few people? Probably. Would I (as an indie author) want to limit my availability like that? Hell no.

        I think you’re right about it being a passive-aggressive shot. This said, there are quite a few people who only shop Amazon as a last resort who may end up deciding that they DON’T need a 45North title, or a title from whatever Amazon’s mystery imprint is, etc. Of course, that’s probably what B&N is banking on.

        • Here’s the thing, Erin. Last time I went into a B&N, the shelves behind the cash registers were overflowing with books that had been ordered and were waiting for the customers to pick them u. Books were stacked on the floor. What did that tell me? B&N was NOT carrying the titles the customers wanted.

          Every one of those customers who had to order a book, had taken the time to drive to B&N in the hopes that they could get the book/s they wanted. They left the store empty-handed. They had to wait for B&N to order. They had to drive back to the store to pick up the books they ordered.

          Just how many times is even a customer on a high-horse about Amazon going to put up with that? Even if the customer goes on line to order from B&N, a few clicks demonstrates very quickly that Amazon is an easy and friendly place to buy on-line, and B&N is not.

          Customer loyalty is probably the most expensive item in any business’s overhead. Once you lose it, it’s going to cost double or triple to get it back. Every time B&N does something unfriendly to customers, they lose customers.

          B&N is trying to win a war of public opinion. Can’t do that when you’re tone-deaf to the people you’re trying to sway.

          • While I don’t disagree with your assessment regarding the books behind the registers (not entirely, anyway), I have to disagree with the “few clicks and done” with Amazon.

            There’s just TOO MUCH going on at Amazon.com for me to be entirely comfortable shopping there. Barnes and Noble, for me anyway, is much more streamlined and user friendly. Then again, maybe I don’t shop the way that many other online shoppers do.

            IIRC, though, the last time we had Barnes and Noble order a book for us (something random my youngest brother needed for school), they shipped it straight to us. We didn’t have to come pick it up at the store. The store pick-up, however, is certainly a marketing ploy. I know this for a fact because clothing retailers (including the one I work for as my “day job”) do it, too. You have something shipped to the store (for discounted or even free shipping) and the store hopes you’ll buy a few more things before you leave, that you won’t just come in, pick up your package, and leave. Even if it only works 50% of the time, that’s still 50% more sales than you would have made otherwise–that’s how the logic works.

    • Or perhaps an apt metaphor is that instead of fighting fire with fire, they’re fanning the flames of the existing fire (i.e. depriving themselves of content — which is what they are complaining about Amazon doing.)

      As for the people who don’t shop at Amazon, that’s a very small group of people, and since they don’t shop at Amazon anyway, it’s not much of a loss. Amazon isn’t doing it to gain back customers who don’t like them, they’re doing it to pull in those who are less engaged, and to gain new accounts. That only has to work along the margins to be successful.

      Of course, looked at that way, B&N is probably playing to the suckers… er, loyal customers who hate Amazon, in hopes of getting them to buy more just to be supportive.

  8. “Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole…
    …have prevented millions of customers from having access to content…
    …continue to pull content off the market…
    …we will make them available only online at bn.com.”

    B&N just doesn’t know where it itches, so they’re going to scratch everywhere. Again with Amazon undermining an industry that frankly isn’t waiting for anyone to undermine it, so eager is it to dig its own mines and fall into them. And the millions of customers being denied content…could they be the people who still shop at B&N and can’t find what they’re looking for unless it’s a manufactured bestseller?

    And which market is Amazon pulling content from? Certainly not the book-buying market, because they understand better than B&N that they’re in the business of getting books to customers.

    So parading their injured feelings bravely, B&N won’t stock Amazon books on their shelves, where customers who don’t or can’t shop online might actually benefit from them, but lest a noble gesture cut into their profits too much, they’ll sell them through their website.

    STOP WHINING and DO SOMETHING for your customers before you no longer have any. Crikey.

    • As someone not from the US, Barnes & Noble won’t accept my indie books except via Smashwords. Looks to me like they are the ones depriving customers of content.

  9. 15 years ago, in my city, there were three large and thriving independent bookstores. Then Media Play, Borders and Barnes & Noble came to town. The indies went out of business. Both Media Plays folded within a few years. Last year the Borders went away. Now we have two B&N.

    Seems to me, B&N’s real message is, Do as we say, not as we do.

  10. Jeff Bezos must’ve enjoyed a nice chuckle over this at breakfast this morning.

  11. When you take this article and the one before it on investors not being happy with the long view Amazon is taking, the message is really hammered home that corporations like B&N (unfortunately like many in the US) don’t understand that they need to consider the customer (not just the investor), or there won’t be any business or profits in the long run.

    Amazon has my loyalty, because they serve me as a customer and an author. As long as they do that, I will continue to give them my business.

    Barnes and Noble has not served me well so far as an author, and their tactic of driving out indie bookstores didn’t serve me as a consumer, nor will this tactic of hurting the author by not carrying certain books endear me as author or reader.

    In addition, I know that they were willing to give Bob Mayers a promotional deal, in exchange for exclusivity (as he announced at at convention I attended this week), but yet they are not offering this to the average indie.

    As everyone has pointed out the hypocrisy is just astounding.

    As for free as a strategy, I sold over 7000 books this past month after my free promotion-seven times what I sold the month before. And I know I am not alone in getting this sort of response. You can bet that Amazon wouldn’t have expanded the pot for January if they hadn’t seen the benefit of the Select in terms of profits. Yes Bezos must be having a good laugh.

  12. “Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole”
    Are you kidding me?! This industry has been undermining itself since BEFORE I was Born. Just look back at the slow upswing of screwing over writers.

    They also neglect to mention that Amazon allowed new access to millions of books that would have otherwise remained unavailable, indefinitely.

  13. I was wondering that myself, Anyone with an internet connection has access to anything Amazon offers, so only those without the web are at issue of not having access. It looks to me as if B&N, by refusing to stock those physical books, is the one denying customers access and pulling content off the market.

  14. Stupidity.

    But then there’s been all sorts of stupid reactions to Amazon lately. Remember back last Spring/Summer when all those independent bookstores decided to boycot Konrath and Crouch, and then all Amazon imprint authors? Talk about a counterproductive business plan! I commented on it back then (cue the shameless self-promotion music): http://michaelkingswood.com/2011/06/23/cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face/

    And now we find B&N doing the same thing.

    Epic fail.

  15. I know it isn’t in their DNA but I think it would be really disruptive if Amazon said it would upload its ebooks to Nook and the iBookstore after 90 days of being exclusive on Kindle.

    • Fascinating strategy, William.

    • That would be fascinating, and would probably make many authors go, “Yay! One-stop uploading!” Which would then give Amazon some interesting clout. If the other places see self-publishing authors as valuable, that is.

      • I meant their imprints not any indie book since that is where B&N is complaining. I hadn’t thought about any indie book, or maybe just KDP Select, being uploading by Amazon with permission. If B&N, Apple or Kobo said they would not allow Amazon’s imprints on their ebook platforms that would be negative publicity and Barnes & Noble would have to change its complaint.

  16. It’s like they’re trying to lose.

    They’d rather make cheap gotcha points in the media than sound business decisions.

    Why don’t they go belly up already so we can get a string of indie stores that actually gives a s*** about their customers.

  17. I agree with Rasputin. The strongest message they’re sending here is that they don’t care about customers.

    B&N’s selection has often seemed limited to me–stodgy and predictable, even back in the day when they sold more actual books (as opposed to calendars, toys, and CDs). Back when Borders stores were more independent from the corporate offices, it seemed like you could go inside and discover lots of offbeat and under-the-radar books. That rarely happened to me in a B&N. Mostly I just wanted to fall asleep b/c of their “restful” dark green/dark wood interiors.

    When I lived in Oakland, they were the biggest offender in terms of corporate bookstores trying to run out the independents. They built huge stores w/in scant blocks of each other in the Oakland/Berkeley area, which made them very hard to avoid. I did venture inside, and they always seemed very empty and the workers vaguely shifty-eyed, like they were doing something illicit, hah. At the time, it was a golden age of bookstores in the area, and there was quite a negative backlash to these megastores opening up on this sacred turf.

    Of course, I really hold a grudge against them b/c they pay so little attention to the PubIt! authors. You’d have to actually know the names of my books to ever find them in the B&N catalog. (And who’s the mastermind who came up with that name–gah!) I’ve asked them questions and waited weeks for answers. Amazon author rep’s get back to you, in my experience, w/in 24 hrs and usually with the information you sought, not some gobbledygook from a corporate FAQ that anyone could access.

    • I’ve had the opposite experience with Amazon reps, though (totally clueless about what I was actually saying/asking), and helpful B&N bookstore people. (I don’t go through PubIt for the ebooks — Smashwords and all — so I can’t speak to B&N’s online support.)

  18. B & N just doesn’t get it. The people they should be dumping are the Big 6. They need to take a page from Amazon’s playbook and start signing up authors. But B & N can go after the blockbuster authors. Those are the folks that really need to be on the physical shelves. And there is no need to babysit those folks. B & N should be able to offer a better deal than Amazon can for anyone who is an established megaseller. If B & N could do that, then they would have some leverage over Amazon. And the world would be rid of that blight on humanity that is Big Publishing all the sooner.

    • William, I think that would be the death of B&N.

      From what I have heard Amazon has treated it’s cherry picked writers very well. Additionally, there is almost no additional overhead cost for Amazon to promote those books and sell them to customers.

      B&N most likely can’t afford what it would cost to build an in house publisher. I don’t mean POD, I mean a true to the sense publisher. They likely just don’t have the pockets for it, nor would their board or investors approve the move. They are too busy not stocking books, so they can stock more copies of star wars monopoly.

      Late to the game, lacking in resources, set in a different mentality and lacking in focus…I just don’t put much money on them going far.

      To be really evil, I’ll point out that if B&N started trying to do what Amazon did…you’d start seeing a lot of new hit books being sold as a “Walmart Exclusive”.

      • I don’t think they would have to make much of an investment at all. They can’t approach it the way traditional publishers do. Traditional publishing is just brain-dead. I mean, returns, seriously? What business is so stupid that it uses a system that only makes sense if your sales data lags months behind? How long does it take from the time a checkout station bar code scanner picks up one of your products until your inventory system knows what to do? If the answer is more than 10 seconds, you are doing it wrong.

        B & N could contract out all the pieces they don’t do (printing, distribution to other outlets, etc.). Just by not doing the obviously stupid stuff that happens in the current system, they could give the blockbuster authors a better deal than either the trad pub folks or Amazon. I don’t think they should try to do exclusives because they need to focus on authors who need the widest possible distribution, including through Amazon.

    • Barnes & Noble has a publishing arm, Sterling Publishing, that it has just put up for sale.

      When it first got Sterling going, the publishers were complaining about Barnes & Noble competing with them. I agree with Knave that Barnes & Noble doesn’t have the money to do much than try to manage the decline in their retail stores and try to keep Nook competitive with Kindle.

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