February 6, 2012

Two more giant retailers join boycott of books published by Amazon



Maybe it’s an instance of live by the sword, die by the sword: After years of ruthlessly battering retailers with relentless and drastic predatory pricing, Amazon finds its foray into book publishing being greeted by a wide-scale and growing retailer boycott.

Late Friday, just days after the country’s biggest brick-and-mortar chain, Barnes & Noble, announced it would not sell books published by Amazon because its “actions have undermined the industry as a whole” (see our earlier report), two more giant chains announced they were joining the boycott: the 200+ stores of the country’s second biggest bookseller chain, Books-A-Million (BAM), and Canada’s number one book retailer, Chapters Indigo.

BAM seems not to have released a statement but rather made the announcement via a phone call to Publishers Weekly, which in turn broke the news with a one-sentence report that notes only that the boycott includes books published by Amazon’s “beard” imprint at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New Harvest. (See our earlier report.) There’s no indication the company made any further statement about its action.

The move by Chapters Indigo, on the other hand, came with a statement that made everything clear, as a Globe & Mail report details. Noting that B&N’s move had “stunned and cheered” the American book community, the report neatly sums up the significance of the three major chains joining forces with the independent booksellers who first announced they wouldn’t sell books from Amazon:

The simmering feud that began with Amazon’s plan to “cut out the middleman” by moving into publishing heated up over the Christmas shopping season when the company ran a promotion encouraging customers to scan products they want in physical stores and automatically buy them from it at a lower price. With the chain stores’ response this week, it erupted into full-scale war.

Ah, but what’s a war without a call to arms? Indigo’s statement says that’s what B&N’s statement was, and they issued a ringing endorsement of their own:

“In our view Amazon’s actions are not in the long-term interests of the reading public or the publishing and book retailing industry, globally,” Indigo vice-president Janet Eger said in an e-mail, adding, “Indigo Founder and CEO Heather Reisman has congratulated Barnes & Noble for taking a leadership stance on the matter, and offers kudos.”

I say, don’t forget this started with some independent booksellers, and kudos to them and all who joined them.


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