October 2, 2012

[UPDATED] B&N says it really doesn’t want to carry Amazon’s books, but the fucking things just show up

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Can it be? According to a company spokesperson, Barnes & Noble is in fact “not selling Amazon titles” in its stores.

But all over the country, it seems it is. As we first reported on Sunday night, a Barnes & Noble store in New York was displaying an Amazon-affiliated book — My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall — and promoting it on a front-of-store table. And by using the company’s “find in store” search function, I’ve just found the book listed as “in stock” in many major markets, including Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Louisville, Washington DC, and Boston.

The news comes after Barnes & Noble spent nine months insisting it would boycott selling Amazon titles, as well those published through partner Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in its “showrooms.”

A number of readers of PaidContent, which picked up our story and asked readers to check their local Barnes & Noble stores, have confirmed that they too have seen the book in stores. Sightings include shops in Chicago, Indiana, and New Hampshire.

Publishers Weekly sought comment on our report from Barnes & Noble itself, which re-confirmed its boycott and promised a “comment on why these titles are on the retailer’s shelves” soon. In PW’s estimation, the stocking issue is just a “glitch.”  (Our story was also picked up by the Atlantic Wire.)

It’s possible that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published Marshall’s book under its New Harvest imprint, sold the book to Barnes & Noble under false pretenses. According to at least one New York indie that is stocking Marshall’s book, Houghton Mifflin reps didn’t flag the book’s Amazon connection when selling it in.

With only four books on the fall New Harvest list, however, this seems unlikely.

In any case, it’s not much of a boycott. A real boycott would mean not stocking Amazon’s books. Guess that’s harder than it looks.

 

Update, Barnes & Noble now recalling Amazon books from its stores: In a follow-up post, Laura Hazard Owen at PaidContent reports that “Barnes & Noble headquarters sent an email to its branches around the country telling them to pull the Amazon titles.” (In addition to Penny Marshall’s memoir, Owen reports that the chain is carrying Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?) She also gets a statement from Barnes & Noble, which flatly states that “Our policy has not changed. We are not carrying Amazon titles.”

Owen wonders if the glitch is “possibly because the company hadn’t stated its policy clearly enough to the stores and because local branches have always had a fair amount of latitude in choosing the titles they want to stock.” But given the scale of the problem—with books scattered throughout the country—I can only imagine the problem rests with Barnes & Noble headquarters.

 

Update #2, Barnes & Noble blames local stores for the glitch: Publishers Weekly is reporting that stores with copies of the Penny Marshall memoir “ordered them on their own.” Further, “Barnes & Noble has told any of its stores that have stocked” the title “to remove the book from shelves.”

 


Kelly Burdick is the former executive editor of Melville House.

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