For Retailers

Striking Back at Amazon – Good or Bad?

Bookstores are striking back against Amazon’s publishing inroads. For example, many won’t be carrying The 4-Hour Chef, the new book by bestselling author Timothy Ferriss, since it’s being published by Amazon.

This is to be expected – Amazon is the enemy for bookstores, since it is so powerful, able to undercut the price that bookstores charge, and is seen by brick-and-mortar stores as the arrogant Goliath to their put-upon David.

You can see where this is coming from – and why consolidation among the remaining large publishers is likely to continue.

Amazon, despite its strengths, hasn’t yet been able to withstand the refusal of booksellers to carry its titles. Penny Marshall’s memoir, published by Amazon, wasn’t the bestseller it was widely expected to be, because of such resistance among brick-and-mortar stores to carry it, according to the recent New York Times article about Amazon and booksellers. It sold okay on Amazon, but needed the physical presence  of a brick-and-mortar network of stores in addition to the online one.

Or maybe the book just wasn’t that interesting to readers – it’s not always a matter of physical distribution.

Now, Ferriss has had a track record with his previous two books, The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. It will be a test to see if he can do well mainly through Amazon’s platform (and his own, of course – since he has several popular sites and platforms help drive readers to books) .

This book might be seen as a test of Amazon’s publishing venture. Or of the power of online distribution of books versus the brick-and-mortar way of selling books. But more and more people are moving to digital, and they’re not likely to be stopping at bookstores to buy their books. Publishes are consolidating to battle Amazon not at the bookstore level, but at the digital one.

This understandable resistance to the power of Amazon is maybe the last gap of a sea change in how books are sold, distributed and read. Traditional paper-and-cardboard books aren’t going away just yet. But one can’t say the same thing, unfortunately, about traditional bookstores.

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