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Indigo, Books-a-Million boycott Amazon

Booksellers Indigo Books and Music and Books-a-Million join Barnes & Noble in refusing to sell Amazon-published books – but Amazon may be looking into opening their own retail stores.

By Husna Haq / February 6, 2012

While booksellers Indigo Books and Music and Books-a-Million are standing with Barnes & Noble and refusing to sell Amazon-published books, Amazon may be looking into retail locations.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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The battle between Amazon and Barnes & Noble is heating up with more booksellers joining the battle – and Amazon striking back.

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Books-a-Million and Canadian bookseller Indigo Books and Music have announced that they joined ranks with Barnes & Noble in refusing to sell Amazon-printed books in their stores.

“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 email, according to the Canadian Globe and Mail.

Last Thursday Barnes & Noble made a similar announcement, saying it would not sell Amazon-printed books in its brick-and-mortar stores in an attempt to cut off access for the online books behemoth that it says “undermined the industry” by signing exclusive agreements with publishers, agents, and authors.

But, according to reports from the Good E-Reader blog, Amazon is striking back with a plan to open its own retail stores. That’s right, the store that built its business model as an online retailer and put many bricks-and-mortar booksellers out of business is looking to get into physical retailing.

The company plans to open a retail store in Seattle, where Amazon is based, within the next few months, Amazon sources told Good E-Reader. “This project is a test to gauge the market and see if a chain of stores would be profitable,” writes Good E-Reader. “They intend on going with the small boutique route with the main emphasis on books from their growing line of Amazon Exclusives and selling their e-readers and tablets.”

This isn’t the first time rumors have circulated about Amazon opening a retail store. In 2007, similar speculation arose when Amazon filed a patent for a retail building, but the building never materialized. This time, however, Amazon has already contracted the design for the store through a shell company to avoid tipping off suspicion.

According to reports, Amazon will model its retail store after Apple’s highly popular showroom-style boutiques – not after big box retail booksellers like Barnes & Noble. Amazon is “not looking to launch a huge store with thousands of square feet,” writes Good E-Reader. “Instead, they are going the boutique route and stocking shelves with only high margin and high-end items. Their intention is to mainly hustle their entire line of Kindle e-Readers and the Kindle Fire.”

Amazon has always approached the physical retail question with trepidation because it would have to pay taxes on sales wherever stores are located. This time it seems to be striving to keep its physical presence small to minimize taxes, as well as taking the time to work out tax loopholes before it launches. If the store is successful, it would mark a new chapter in Amazon’s sales strategy and deepen the divide between it and other booksellers.

Stay tuned – the test store may open soon after the Kindle Fire 2 is announced and before this year’s holiday season.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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