Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kuttner: Amazon, Barnes & Noble Battle Over My Obama Book

Robert Kuttner in The Huffington Post in re his book Obama's Challenge:

    Margo [Baldwin, president of Kuttner's publisher, Chelsea Green Publishers] negotiated a highly creative deal with Amazon, to offer readers the benefits of its new print-on-demand service. You order it, they print, and you get it two days from the time of your order. An Amazon discount coupon will also be in the packets of DNC delegates, alternates, and media. In the meantime, Chelsea Green is rushing out its regular print edition, which will be in bookstores after Labor Day. Or maybe it won't.

    When the Amazon agreement was announced, Amazon's retail competitors pushed back big time. Amazon is of course the 800 pound gorilla of bookselling. What was an independent publisher doing in bed with it?

    Barnes and Noble canceled its initial order and has decided not to stock the book in any of its stores, making it available only on B&N.com and by special order. Only one independent bookseller did likewise. In an open letter to the bookseller community, Margo appealed for perspective, and argued that the Amazon launch strategy was designed to build interest in the book initially, creating the demand that would result in strong sales in all retail outlets. With an expanded pie, there would be more book sales for everyone. And the market would hardly be exhausted in two weeks.

He concludes:

    All innovators take risks. For a small publishing house that depends on the goodwill of booksellers, this was a huge one. The book could have a shelf life of just eight weeks. If Obama loses, this book will be a historic curiosity, and we will have a bonfire of unsold books. If he wins, maybe it will make a difference.

    read more | digg story

Hardly makes one feel too much enthusiasm for spending money at Barnes and Noble, though, does it?

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