February 9, 2012

American Booksellers Association joins boycott of books published by Amazon, effectively sealing off North America


Although numerous independent booksellers, over the last few weeks, have individually announced they would ban books published by Amazon from their stores, late yesterday the trade organization representing most of the indies in the U.S. as well as many in Canada made it official: The American Booksellers Association (ABA) announced it would be joining competitors Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Chapters Indigo in boycotting Amazon’s books.

According to a report in Publishers Weekly by Judith Rosen, the ABA’s e-commerce platform, IndieCommerce, “began removing all Amazon titles from its database” yesterday while simultaneously sending notice via email to members.

The email, from Indie Commerce director Matt Supko, said, “While Amazon is seeking to distribute its print catalog through conventional means, it seems that they are simultaneously pursing a strategy of locking in ebook exclusives which other retailers are not allowed to sell. IndieCommerce believes that this is wrong.”

Supko also announced a new policy:  ”only publishers’ titles that are made available to retailers for sale in all available formats will be included in the IndieCommerce inventory database.”

While neither the PW report nor the brief bit of the ABA statement it quotes makes it quite clear, it seems as if the organization can only prevent its members from selling books via its e-commerce platform; presumably, it can’t enforce a rule against members stocking the book in their brick-and-mortar locations.

Still, it doesn’t seem likely that many members are going to do that anyway. And if all 1512 member stores participate, that would mean more bookstores joining the boycott than Barnes & Noble (705 stores), Chapters Indigo (361), and Books-A-Million (200) combined. The Canadian Booksellers Association has yet to join in — although the vigor with which the CBA has previously opposed Amazon‘s expanding efforts in Canada seems to indicate it most likely will — but otherwise the ABA’s announcement seems to signify that books published by Amazon have effectively been banned at almost every brick-and-mortar bookstore in North America.

And how long before Waterstones, and the Booksellers Association, representing indies in the UK, join in?

My prediction: Not long at all.


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives